NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 – Tatu City has given the Kenya Rugby Union a Sh5mn sponsorship towards planning of Kenya 15’s August twin test matches against Hong Kong in Nairobi.
The sponsorship will go towards catering for travel, accommodation and logistics for the Hong Kong side with the two matches set for August 23 and 27 in Nairobi.
“We are happy to forge this partnership with the Kenya Rugby team which has done Kenya proud over the last few years. These matches are critical in ranking and in the build up to qualification of 2019 Rugby World Cup. This sponsorship will help in training and planning. It is not only this match but we want to forge an alliance for the future,” Nick Langford, Rendeavour Country Manager said as he announced the partnership.
KRU chairman Richard Omwela said the Union and Tatu City were also exploring other avenues of partnership as they aim to push Kenya to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, having failed by a whisker to qualify for last year’s show piece in England.
“We are grateful for what I believe is a good relationship with Tatu City. This is the beginning of many things to come, despite the level of entry. Work is just beginning for our team and we want to work our way into qualifying for the World Cup in 2019,” Omwela told Capital Sports on the sidelines of the announcement.
He adds; “Tatu coming on board is something we appreciate because these test matches are not budgeted in advance. The costs are high; air tickets accommodation and logistics. Hong Kong is ranked higher than us and a win against them will help us significantly improve our rankings. They are no pushovers and will be a tough competition.”
The announcement comes just a day after the Simbas beat Zimbabwe’s Sables 61-15 in a Rugby Afrique 1A match in Harare. The team travelled to Namibia on Sunday where they will play the hosts ranked second in Africa in their second test match on Saturday.
The record win by Jerome Paarwater’s boys moved Kenya two places up in the rankings to 24th and might make a bigger improvement if they beat the Namibians, Africa’s second best 15’s team on Saturday.
Omwela insisted more emphasis will be put on developing the under-19 side which he says is the right age cadre building up to the 2019 World Cup.
“Most of the players might not be around in 2019 for the World Cup and this calls us to focus more on the age group competitions. Our biggest focus is on the under-19 and if we can develop this further, then I believe we are in the right path,” Omwela added.
He also disclosed Kenya has lined up more test matches in a bid to bolster the ranking with Romania and Belgium touted as next opponents.
After the Namibia game on Saturday, the Simbas will return to the country, shifting their focus to the second leg of the Elgon Cup against Uganda Rugby Cranes, the match slated for July 30, having convincingly won the first leg 48-10 in Kampala.
Meanwhile, KRU are set to announce a new sponsor for this year’s Sevens Series and the ultimate showpiece, the annual Safari Sevens.
Though Omwela did not disclose details of the new sponsors, Capital Sport has learnt betting firm SportPesa which sponsors the Kenyan Premier League as well as Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards are among the frontrunners to finance the tourney.
Previously, mobile phone firm Safaricom and beer brand Tusker have sponsored the series.
“Maybe in the next two weeks we are going to have something announced. We are working on the finer details and definitely it will be something good,” Omwela offered.
The Union chair said the board has been working to clean its image after having suffered a huge sponsorship storm for the last year due to allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds.
He is optimistic more sponsors will come the Union’s way including for the 15’s team which has for long been starved of sponsorship, corporate instead focusing on the more popular 7’s version.