NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 22- Experienced Impala centre Innocent Simiyu will skipper the ‘Kenya A’ team that will take on visiting Hong Kong in a test match on Tuesday evening at the Impala grounds with head coach Jerome Paarwater going for a relatively young squad.
This will be one of two matches Kenya will play against Hong Kong, with the second, a full test match being staged on Saturday at the RFUEA Ground.
Simiyu, 33, made a return to the national team this year after a long absence and played part in the African Cup matches against Zimbabwe, Namibia and at home to Uganda.
Speaking to Capital Sport, Simiyu who has captained the Simbas before says he is elated at the opportunity of leading out the side on Tuesday, revealing his biggest aim will be to impart some of his experience to the young boys in the squad.
“It feels great to be named captain. It’s a great honor bestowed on me to lead the team. The biggest contribution I can give now is leadership, having been part of the Kenyan team for many years. Having played for the national team for 15 years, I can impact some knowledge on the young guys and hopefully come out with a win,” Simiyu told Capital Sport.
Simbas team manager Wangila Simiyu adds he is confident in Simiyu’s ability to successfully lead the Kenya A side that is mainly composed of young players, close to half of them pulling on the Kenyan jersey for the first time.
“I have confidence in Innocent because he has been my captain before. Coming back for him has not been easy and he has worked his way back. Has shown confidence by coming back to the team and we want to reward him by handing him the role to captain the team and hopefully that flair of leadership is displayed in the team tomorrow,” Simiyu said.
Ten new players have been named in the team that also includes regulars Patrice Agunda, Dan Sikuta, Cyprian Kuto and Michael Agevi.
Simiyu says the biggest focus right now is to build a strong team that will enable Kenya qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan with the qualifiers starting off next year.
“We are looking to blend youth and experienced players and nurturing a squad for the future. A squad that will see us qualify for the World Cup in 2019 and beyond. At the moment, the structures are working, the systems are working and we have to ensure the boys keep together for a long period. We have to keep consistency, not picking and dropping players every time,” he noted.
The team expects a very tough match against Hong Kong with both the team manager and captain sounding positive of a win under the Impala floodlights.
“We look at tomorrow’s match as an international game. We will take it with the seriousness it deserves. We will give our best and put our best feet forward and hopefully we can come up with a win because we have a very good squad of players,” skipper Simiyu said.
Wangila adds; “It’s not a team that’s here for holidays. They are here for a job. It is a great honor not only for Kenya but for Africa for Hong Kong to come to African soil and play their first test in Kenya. It tells you the confidence and the hard work Kenya 15s have done to make sure World Rugby has recognized and if we perform well we are yet to see many more test series matches,” Simiyu added.
Hong Kong is placed 22nd on the World Rugby rankings and if Kenya manages to win the full test match on Saturday, then they stand a chance of pulling up to 23rd.
Simiyu has intimated to Capital Sport they will only tweak the squad a bit, depending on performance for Saturday’s match where most of the regulars are set to be involved.
Squad for Hong Kong match
Oscar Simiyu*, Phillip Ikambili*, Dennis Karani, George Nyambua*, Eric Kerrre, Martin Owila, Dan Sikuta, Edwin Machanje, Kelvin Masai, Innocent Simiyu, Cyprian Kuto, Patrice Agunda, Peter Kilonzo*, Enock Makinga*, Michael Agevi
George Asin*, Stephen Juma*, Hillary Mwajilwa*, Charlton Mokua*, Tyson Okoth*, Leonard Mugaisi Dennis Muhanji, Samson Onsomu