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Ambaka debuts as Snook readies for Tunisia

Kenya’s William Ambaka races away for a try against Spain on day two of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in London on 3rd June, 2018. Photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 9- Shujaa star Willy Ambaka will make his 15s test debut after being named in head coach Ian Snook’s starting team for the Rugby Africa Gold Cup tie against Tunisia at the RFUEA Ground on Saturday.

This is one of only two changes made by the tactician from the team that played Uganda in the 38-22 win on July 7.

Ambaka who has been one of the shining stars for the national sevens team this season has had a brilliant share of experience in the longer version of the game having had professional stints with Lou Rugby in France, Western Province in South Africa and Manawatu in new Zealand.

“Willy spoke to me after the Uganda game and indicated his interest so Rouly (Murray Roulston) and I did some research with Manawatu where he had played previously and the reports were extremely positive,” Snook said of his decision to start Ambaka.

He added; “We watched a bit of footage in the Manawatu colours and decided he would fit in well to this group. Now he has a chance to show how good he can be in XV’s and we wish him all the best.”

Kenya 15s head coach Ian Snook gestures during a training session at the RFUEA Ground on July 5, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Ambaka will come in for Felix Ayange on the wing with the other change seeing KCB’s Martin Owila start at blindside ahead of George Nyambua.

Owila has been an off the bench impact player in the last three games for the Simbas and his performance has attracted the interest of the technical bench who thought it wise to hand him a starting role on Saturday.

“This is a reward for consistently high levels at trainings and when coming off the bench in previous games. The three selectors, myself, Charles Ngovi and Dominique Habibana all were of the same opinion that he deserved this opportunity,”

“It is a strong position in the team as Nyambua has been playing really well and has been one of our consistently best forwards. However, this is a team of 35, not 15, and we are still sorting out a squad who would be capable of performing well at the World Cup should the team make it that far,” Snook explained.

Kenya Simbas Oliver Mang’eni goes down under a challenge from a Uganda player during the Elgon Cup match that also doubled up as a Rugby Africa Gold Cup tie at the RFUEA Ground on July 7, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

The Simbas have a three out of three record so far in the Gold Cup which also doubles up as a qualification to next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, beating Morocco away as well as Zimbabwe and Uganda at home though all three games have been close calls.

Fourth placed Tunisia have won one game at home, beating Zimbabwe who ran Kenya close and were almost snatching victory from Nairobi. Though the last time the North Africans visited Nairobi they ended up getting a century hit, Snook expects a tough duel on Saturday afternoon.

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“I have seen their other results and watched their games so I know it will be a physical game which will take the normal 100% effort from the boys. Tunisia have been in town all week so will have had plenty of time to fine-tune things and be well prepared,” Snook offered.

The New Zealander has also praised the team for their resilience this season despite failing to get any big build up games prior to the tournament and he believes they can carry the job on to the last day.

Kenya Simbas players celebrate after beating Uganda to clinch the Elgon Cup in a match that also doubled up as a Rugby Africa Gold Cup tie at the RFUEA Ground on July 7, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

“The character of the players has shone through with three hard earned wins from three games. In each game we have been under pressure at various times and on each occasion the team have made good decisions and performed well at the vital times. Many players have performed really well and there is a strong squad coming together. Lots of hard work has been paying off,” added the tactician.

A win for the Simbas on Saturday will set up a mouth-watering clash against Namibia in Windhoek on August 18.

Simbas squad to face Tunisia

  1. Vincent Mose (Impala Saracens), 14. William Ambaka (Kenya Harlequin)*, 13. Peter Kilonzo, 12. Darwin Mukidza, 11. Jacob Ojee (KCB), 10. Isaac Adimo (Kenya Harlequin), 9. Samson Onsomu (Impala Saracens), 1. Patrick Ouko (Homeboyz), 2. Colman Were, 3. Joseph Odero, 4. Andrew Chogo (Kabras Sugar), 5. Oliver Mang’eni, 6. Martin Owilah (KCB), 7. Elkeans Musonye (Strathmore Leos), 8. Davis Chenge (KCB/Captain)

REPLACEMENTS 16. Peter Karia, 17. Moses Amusala (KCB), 18. Hillary Mwanjilwa (Kabras Sugar), 19.Malcolm Onsando (Kenya Harlequin), 20. George Nyambua (Kabras Sugar), 21. Mohamed Omollo, 22. Maxwell Kang’eri, 23. Tony Onyango (Homeboyz).

-Quotes Courtesy KRU

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