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Simbas look on Ambaka ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Willy Ambaka is set to make a return to the Kenya Simbas for the 2018 assignments. Photo/COURTESY

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 15- Kenya 15s Team Manager Wangila Simiyu has hinted that former Sevens star Willy Ambaka will be considered for duty next year when the team kicks off its 2019 Rugby World Cup qualification campaign.

The former Kenya Harlequins player left the country in June to join New Zealand second tier side Manawatu Turbos and Simiyu believes the experience picked up by the winger will be vital to Kenya’s World Cup campaign.

“Ambaka is definitely someone we are looking at because he is now playing in the 15s and the experience he will get especially in New Zealand is immense. We would want to tap into that and once the time is ripe, the Union will make contact with his club and we will see,” Simiyu told Capital Sport.

Ambaka, who previously had a pro-stint in the French second tier before returning to Kenya to play for Quins, had been a pillar for the Sevens team Shujaa over the past three seasons until the opportunity to play in the spiritual home of 15s rugby arose.

Kenya Rugby Union boss Richard Omwela (left) with Kenya Simbas Team Manager Wangila Simiyu.Photo/COURESY

His experience will now come vital as the 15s side aim to qualify for the World Cup for the first time ever, having come inches close during the last qualifiers in 2015.

“He (Ambaka) brings in a lot of positives. He brings in power which will help us in the physical games and also, tactically and technically he comes in as a better player,” the Team Manager further added.

Simiyu affirmed that back-row Joshua Chisanga who has featured in the English Leagues with Newcastle Falcons will still remain to be part of the team and his expected combined talent with Ambaka will strengthen the team.

He has meanwhile called upon the Kenya Rugby Union to ensure the team starts preparations for the qualifiers as soon as possible to ensure the squad is well conditioned to charge for the single ticket to Japan.

Kenya Simbas Team Manager Wangila Simiyu.Photo/COURTESY

With lessons picked from the just concluded Africa Gold Cup where Kenya finished second behind Namibia, Simiyu says the team needs to bulk up and condition well to ensure they can compete with their biggest rivals Namibia.

“From what we saw in the Gold Cup, technically and tactically we are okay. The challenge is that we can’t handle those physical games. An example is the Namibia match. All the tries they scored was because of our mistakes and their decision to go physical. We could not match,” Simiyu said.

“We need more aggression to ensure we can cope up with power play. With more conditioning, we should get there. But we need to start preparations as soon as possible. We are playing against Namibia and Zimbabwe whose players are playing regularly in the Vodacom and Curry Cup,” he added.

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“To compete with them, we need to prepare very well. We can’t take chances,” he further warned.

-Hong Kong test match-

The Kenya Simbas with their runner up trophy after the test match against Germany on May 27, 2017. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

The team coached by South African Jerome Paarwater will play two test matches against Hong Kong on August 20 and 26 as part of their preparations for next year’s crucial fixtures. They will also participate in the Hong Kong Cup of Nations set for November 10-18 in the Asian nation.

The Simbas will face hosts Hong Kong, Russia and Chile in the tourney.

Meanwhile, the team for this weekend’s first test against Hong Kong will be named on Wednesday and Wangila has hinted they will hand opportunities to more youngsters as they look to hand them experience and a platform to prove themselves.

“We have had some very good young boys who have shown promise and it is time to give them a huge match to prove themselves. These test matches will also open our eyes to see who slots where in the team,” Simiyu asserted.

The team will have two training sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, having broken camp on Sunday.

“It is a match that we are taking with big attention. Hong Kong is ranked one place above us and it would be important to win to get those vital ranking points,” Simiyu underscored.

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