Uganda Rugby Cranes and Kenya Simbas are in each others’ crosshairs as the two eternal East African rivals set their targets for a maiden Rugby World Cup appearance. They will battle in the fourth quarterfinal of the Rugby Africa Men’s Cup 2022 on Saturday, June 2 at the Stade Maurice David in Aix-en-Provence overseas in France.
Kenya Simbas head coach, Paul Odera, sharing his thoughts about the Rugby Cranes, said that his charges will be playing against a dangerous team.
“Our preparations to play Uganda are like our preparations for the best team. Uganda is a very dangerous team, particularly when they play Kenya. They would rather lose against anyone but when it comes to Kenya, they raise their game at least ten (or) fifteen per cent,” Odera said.
He acknowledged the threat posed by the Rugby Cranes which has guided the team’s mentality and approach to the match.
“The reality is, it’s knockout rugby. So we lose the quarter final, we are out. So the approach is that we are playing a knockout match against a very dangerous opponent who are also good. In fact, the mantra in camp has been this is the final, so that is exactly how we are approaching the game next week,” he revealed.
This was during the media briefing held on Thursday afternoon at the RFUEA Grounds on Ngong Road after naming his final twenty-eight men for the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification campaign.
Despite what he described as a “massive headache” in trimming his squad from eighty players to the required twenty-eight, Odera is confident that he has selected the best men for the task at hand and that he has subjected them to the best preparations.
“We are confident that we have struck the right balance between experience and youth. We’ve also struck the right balance between skills, we’ve struck the right balance between personalities and how the team gels together,” Odera said.
The squad has ten players under the age of twenty-three, some of whom have gone through the age-grade U-19 and U-20 national squads, and eight players over thirty. They will be led by stalwart Daniel Sikuta as the captain, assisted by Malcolm Onsando and Darwin Mukidza.
Kenya Simba’s XV squad for Rugby Africa Cup 2022 campaign:
- Forwards: Andrew Siminyu (University of Johannesburg, South Africa), Edward Mwaura (Menengai Oilers), Eugene Sifuna (Kabras Sugar), Teddy Akala (Kabras Sugar), Brian Waraba (Kenya Harlequin), Patrick Ouko (KCB), Ephraim Oduor (Kabras Sugar ), Joseph Odero (Kabras Sugar), Davis Chenge (KCB), Brian Juma (Kabras Sugar), Thomas Okeyo (University of Johannesburg, South Africa), Malcolm Onsando (CS Dinamo Bucuresti, Romania) – vice-captain, George Nyambua ( Kabras Sugar), Bethwel Anami (Strathmore Leos), Daniel Sikuta (Kabras Sugar) – captain, Martin Owilah (KCB).
- backs: Samuel Asati (KCB), Brian Tanga (Kabras Sugar), Jone Kubu (Kabras Sugar), Andrew Matoka (Strathmore Leos), John Okoth (Menengai Oilers), Collins Injera (Mwamba), Vincent Onyala (KCB), Bryceson Adaka (Kabras Sugar), Jacob Ojee (KCB), Derrick Ashiundu (Kabras Sugar), Dominic Coulson (University of Exeter, England), Darwin Mukidza (KCB) – vice-captain.
Most notable mentions on the squad that will depart for France in five days on Wednesday morning include World Rugby Sevens legend Collins Injera and his fellow Olympian Jacob Ojee who have crossed codes for this tournament.
Odera’s biggest concern when the teams take to the turf will be keeping the Rugby Cranes under pressure at all times during the match.
“If we were playing Uganda tomorrow, my concerns would be our ability to consistently put them under pressure both in attack and defence. Because sometimes we tend to move away from our strengths which is keeping the ball, running hard onto the ball, and putting teams under pressure, and defensively, just to be patient,” he revealed.
He added that he is aware of the Rugby Cranes’ strengths and the progress they have made since their last competitive outing during the Rugby Africa Cup last year.
“We have watched the videos and we have done our analysis. They are quite strong and of course, they have improved from last year when we saw them play Algeria and Ghana,” Odera said.
His counterpart Fred Mudoola named his final Rugby Cranes squad mid-last week and revealed to Kawowo Sports that they intended to do their absolute best in every game.
This clash will, without a shred of doubt, be the main act of the opening matchday of the Rugby Africa Men’s Cup 2022.