NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31 – Kenya 15s head coach Jerome Paarwater has said the team will not burry their heads in the sand despite last weekend’s 30-29 loss to Germany in an international test match at Nairobi’s RFUEA Grounds, but instead pick the lessons ahead of next month’s Elgon Cup ties against Uganda.
The Simbas will face the Cranes in the first-leg in Kampala June 10 while the return leg, which will also double up as a Rugby Africa Gold Cup match will be played two weeks later in Nairobi.
“It’s a learning curve; though it is disappointing to lose at home for the first time for me, I think we had some good moments and looking that we had very many new boys in the team, I was happy with what I saw. We now know what to do ahead of the next match against Uganda,” Paarwater told Capital Sport.
Skipper Wilson K’Opondo who returned to the team after a two year absence was unfortunately substituted early in the second half after picking up a shoulder injury, but equally, he feels the team picked vital lessons ahead of the new season.
“It is heartbreaking definitely to lose at home but there are so many positives we can pick. This is the first game of the season and definitely it gives us an insight of where we are and what we are supposed to do,” K’Opondo noted.
Among the areas that Paarwater has picked to work on before the Elgon Cup and Rugby Africa matches includes the forwards and set pieces, areas he said Germany exploited to win the test match last weekend.
“They (Germany) are a big pack of forwards and they put us under a lot of pressure on the scrums. Man for man they are 20 kilos heavier than us and it was especially tough looking at all the work we put in South Africa over 10 days,” Paarwater commented.
He added; “We now need to put more effort in training especially on set pieces. This was the first game of the season and playing the way we did is encouraging. Losing is not good but nonetheless, we move on.”
-Wokarach on Cranes-
Meanwhile, Uganda’s Philip Wokarach who has been in outstanding form for his club Kabras Sugar is optimistic that the Cranes will reclaim the Elgon Cup, saying his team has greatly improved over the last one year.
Wokarach has also praised the impact former Kenya Sevens strength and conditioning coach Geoffrey Kimani has had on them since taking over late last year.
“It was evident when we went to the World Rugby Sevens series that we are a better team. We have grown so much and this is just the beginning. I know we will get better and better because coach Kimani has put in so much work,” Wokarach said.
On the Elgon Cup he said; “We know it is not going to be easy but then again, we have the ability to win this cup. The team has been in camp training and come 10th, everyone will see what we can do.”
Wokarach who was man of the match during the return leg last year in Nairobi has however, said playing in Kenya for the past one year will not be an advantage of sorts for him, despite knowing all the players and what to expect from them.
-World Cup qualifier-
After, the Uganda duel, the Simbas will now plan for the home ties against Tunisia and Senegal on July 8 and 15 before travelling away to Namibia and Zimbabwe on July 22 and 29 respectively. In August, the team will play two test matches against Hong Kong.
But, the bigger goal for the Simbas is qualification to the 2019 World Cup in Japan having missed the last edition after narrowly going out to Namibia in the qualifiers.
Paarwater says his concentration for this season before the qualifiers start in 2019 will be to build a huge squad to ensure there is enough depth to see the country achieve its first ever qualification to the World Cup.
“For the qualifiers you need to have a lot of depth and that is what we are working on now with more young players coming into the system. The work has only started and next year is when the real business starts,” Paarwater noted.
Skipper K’Opondo said; “The qualifiers are set for next year so everything we do is geared towards building up the team for next year. This year we look at our deficiencies and strengthen where we need to,”
“This time we want to take each match at a time. As a team we have belief that we can make it and now it just a matter of putting in the hard work,” the skipper said.