Rugby Rugby

Simbas ready to hunt down Cranes in Elgon Cup

The Kenya 15s team pose with their new jerseys. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu
The Kenya 15s team pose with their new jerseys. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 28- Having recorded a  48-10 victory in the first-leg played at the Legends Rugby Club in Kampala, Kenya 15’s rugby team have warned Uganda to be braced for battle when they lock horns for the return leg at the RFUEA Grounds on Saturday.

Skipper Brian Nyikuli says the team is in high spirits with confidence as they aim to not only bag the bragging rights from winning the Elgon Cup but also pick vital CAR African Cup points against the Cranes.

“We have trained well and everyone has confidence. We want to ensure that Uganda don’t even get a score and that will mean tightening our defense. We have forgotten about what happened in Uganda; only the fans remember. For us, this is a new match and we ought to give our all,” Nyikuli stated.

The team that will be looking to reclaim the title will be without KCB winger Darwin Mukidza and Kabras Sugar centre Fabian Olando who are ruled out with injury.

Mukidza, who scored three tries in the first leg in Kampala, has managed to recover but according to team manager Wangila Simiyu, they decided to rest him further due to match fitness concerns with a test match against Hong Kong on the horizon.

Olando still has five weeks to recover from a knee injury and is set to be ruled out of the two Hong Kong matches.

Head coach Jerome Paarwater has handed a debut to Impala Saracens’ Ian Minjire who he believes will be a vital addition to the team, basing on his club form during the Kenya Cup.

“I believe we have a very strong squad because competition has been tough. Agunda (Patrice) will be put in to play in Olando’s place. He is equally a good player and will give us a lot of depth with his experience having played for the national sevens team as well as doing well on his 15’s return,” Simiyu noted.

The team will also see a return of Nondescript back-row Ronnie Mwenesi after a whole year out with a neck injury and he slots straight into the starting 15.

The Simbas come into the clash as favourites if their performance from their recent test matches is anything to go by.

Kenya Under-19 coach Paul Odera.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu.
Kenya Under-19 coach Paul Odera.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu.

After stopping Uganda at their own backyard, the team travelled to Brazil in a test match where they narrowly won 18-17 before heading to Zimbabwe where they demolished their hosts 61-15 in Africa Cup.

They were however stopped by a resolute Namibia in their last African Cup match losing 56-21.

“There are crucial lessons we picked from all the matches. Like in the Namibia match, we didn’t start well and ended up conceding early. We had the ball first but one of our guys knocked the ball on and from there Namibia picked up,” Nyikuli said.

“Now we have to ensure we start fast and deny Uganda the ball completely. They are a physical side and so we should be wary of that,” added the 31-year old Simbas captain.

Kenya will be aiming to bring the trophy back home after Uganda snatched the Elgon Cup off their wings last year.

Overall, the Simbas have the bragging rights in terms of head-to-head record, having won 17 of the 26 meetings between them and the next door neighbors.

“It’s once in a while that this team plays here at home and so we want to ask all our fans to come out and support us. We promise them a win and entertainment as well,” Simiyu urged.

South African referee Jaco van Heerden will take charge of the match that kicks-off at 3:30pm.

Uganda, who beat Zimbabwe in an African Cup match last weekend, is expected to arrive on Thursday night while the customary captain’s run will be conducted at the match venue on Friday.

-Chipu to curtain raise-

Kenya’s Under-19 side will curtain raise match with a match against local team Northern Suburbs. The youngsters were initially set to play their Ugandan counterparts but there was a last minute change with the emerging Cranes failing to travel.

Head coach Paul Odera says the match will be a vital point for them in testing their level of preparedness as they head to Namibia in August for the African U19 Division 1 Championships where they will face Zimbabwe.

“The biggest challenge with this team has been the time management because trying to get them together is not easy. But it is a good match for us because the Northern Suburbs is a side which has been together for a long time and they will pose a challenge which will help us prepare for Zimbabwe,” Odera said.

Kenya Squad to face Uganda:

Starting 15: Moses Amusala (KCB), Sammy Warui (Nakuru RFC), Curtis Lilako (KCB), Ronnie Mwenesi (Nondis), Oliver Mang’eni (KCB), Brian Nyikuli (Strathmore), Mike Okombe (Kabras), Tony Owuor (Homeboyz), Edwin Achayo(Kabras), Nato Simiyu (Impala), Patrice Agunda (Kenya Harlequins), Nick Barasa (Kabras, David Ambunya Kenya Harlequins), Ian Minjire (Impala Saracens), Tony Onyango (Homeboyz).

Replacements: Peter Karia (KCB), Joseph Kang’ethe, James Kang’ethe (Kenya Harlequins), Simon Muniafu (Impala Saracens), Max Adaka Kabras), Lylle Asiligwa, Isaac Adimo (Kenya Harlequins), Innocent Simiyu (Impala Saracens)