Saturday was a good day for Kenyan rugby with three national teams — men’s 15s (Kenya Simbas), women’s 15s (Kenya Lionesses) and Kenya Under-20 (Chipu) — winning their respective international matches.
Simbas recovered from a 16-13 first leg defeat they suffered in Kisumu three weeks ago to beat Uganda Cranes 16-5 and retain the Elgon Cup for the fourth consecutive time on a 29-21 aggregate.
Lionesses followed up their 44-13 first leg victory with a 35-5 walloping of Uganda to retain the women’s Elgon Cup on 79-18 aggregate.
Kenya Lionesses were using the Elgon Cup to prepare for a 2020 World Cup Africa qualifier matches against South Africa, Madagascar and Uganda in August.
Perhaps what was inspiring was the juniors’ 26-24 victory over home team Brazil in the ongoing World U-20 Junior Trophy Championship in the South American nation.
Notably, Kenya went into the match on the back of a 63-11 loss to Uruguay in the tournament.
The team, now third in Pool ‘A’, can reach the quarter-finals with victory over Japan on Wednesday. To get onto the global stage, the team won Africa U-20 Championship.
But having failed to qualify for the World Cup, and 2019 Gold Cup cancelled, Simbas will be out of action for a long time.
Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) officials should seriously think of building a strong team with 2023 World Cup in mind. A good starting point would be to use the U-20 players, who have proven themselves on the global stage, to build a team for the future.
KRU talent scouts should visit secondary schools and set up training camps for junior teams as a way of nurturing talent. More importantly, the federation should strengthen local leagues, attract more sponsorship and improve the current prize structure that was introduced last season in the top rugby league to spur development of the local sport.