NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 8- National rugby Under-19 head coach Paul Odera has named five foreign-based players in his 37-man squad that will step up preparations ahead of the Rugby Africa South Under-20 Championships set for March in Namibia.
Two South African based players, Toby Francombe from the Western Province Academy and Andrew Siminyu from Hillcrest School lead the list that also has Mark Mutuku from Canterbury University in New Zealand.
“All the five have been with us in the past and they are players who we know very well, like Mark has been part of the team for the last two years. They had to come down here us well for us to see them and gauge their form at this moment,” Odera told Capital Sport.
The other foreign based youngsters called in are Michelle Brighetti and Michael Amolo both from the United Kingdom. However, according to Rugby Africa rules, only four players will be used for the tournament hence Odera will have to drop one of them.
The tactician says the foreign based legion will bring a lot of impetus to the team, saying they will head into the Namibia tournament with a lot of confidence.
“These are players who have played rugby from a very tender age and therefore they become a good addition. Technically they bring in a lot of impact and we will now find a way of blending that with what we have in terms of speed and strength,” further added the coach.
The team resumed training last week and had a training match over the weekend, from where the squad of almost 50 was whittled down to 37. At the end of February, Odera is expected to whittle the squad down further to 28.
Chipu, who last played at the World Rugby Junior Trophy when Kenya hosted it in 2009 were runners up to Namibia at the 2015,2016 and 2017 editions of the Rugby Africa U20 championships.
This year, Rugby Africa has changed the format for the qualifiers which will require a final play off between South Zone and Northern Zone winners. The winner of the overall tournament will claim Africa’s sole berth to the World Rugby Junior Trophy.
Chipu have been drawn against Zimbabwe in the semifinal set for March 28 in Windhoek and if they successfully go past the tie, they will face the winner of the Namibia-Madagascar semifinal at the same venue for the South Zone title.
The U20 South zone winner will then face the U20 North zone for the overall African title, and with it qualification to the 2018 World Rugby Junior Trophy which is the second tier of global competition at the U20 level.
“Last time out we lost 64-24 to Namibia and this time, we want to go and do better. Our target is to qualify for the World Junior Trophy and we will work hard to achieve that. We have three months of training and we will get ready by then,” the coach added.
He will be working on fixing the team’s conditioning with a two-day-per week training program but the same is expected to be raised in March.
“The power, strength and speed is good but our endurance is a bit wanting. We can play 50 or 60 minutes of a game very well but that finishing power is missing. This is what we will be working on and hopefully we get better by the end of March,” the coach noted.
Provisional Chipu Squad
Johnstone Olindi, Zeden Marrow, Stanley Isogol, Emmanuel Silungi, William Diffu, John Daniel Gichuhi (Homeboyz), Edmund Anya, Bethuel Anami, James Wanjala, Lucas Oppal, Erastus Karani, Bradley Ochieng (Strathmore Leos), Boniface Ochieng (Kenya Harlequins), Alvin Okoth, Kevin Kerore (Mwamba), Toby Francombe (Western Province Academy), Joshua Matasi (Impala Saracens), Eugene Kuria, Simon Peter Ofula (Strathmore School), Monate Akuei (Nakuru), Joe Awori, Dennis Lusweti (USIU), Harold Anduvate, Derrick Keyoga, Victor Matiko, Allan Aziz (Menengai Oilers), Mark Mutuku (Canterbury University, NZ), Martin Jeremy, Kelvin Munene (USIU), Andrew Siminyu (Hillcrest High School, SA), Samuel Asati (KCB), Xavier Kipng’etich (Impala Saracens), Gideon Makumi (Strathmore Leos), Michele Brighetti ( UK), Steven Osumbo (KCB),Michael Amolo (Leeds University, UK), Jeff Mutuku (Kingswood College, SA), Joshua Macharia ( Daystar/KCB).