There will be minimal changes in the national 15’s rugby team due to re-assemble on July 22 to continue preparations for the first leg of the annual Elgon Cup due August 15 in Nairobi.
Coach Michael “Tank” Otieno said on arrival from Morocco that up to three changes are expected among the backs. He added there was an urgent need for more matches.
Kenya finished second to Morocco in the Africa Rugby Confederation Trophy (Northern Zone) competition where teams that did not make it to the last four of the Africa Zone of the Rugby World Cup qualifiers competed against one another.
Morocco won 29-11 while Senegal beat Cameroon 11-3 to finish third.
The team’s captain, Innocent Simiyu, echoed the words of Otieno. He further said the first leg of Elgon Cup should have been played before the CAR Trophy, saying that have helped Kenya prepare for CAR Trophy.
Players and the technical bench were unanimous that there was no substitute to playing more matches. Otieno suggested at least 10 matches per year. He supported an idea mooted by national seven-a-side coach Benjamin Ayimba of a Southern Zone circuit involving Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.
Ayimba had said this was a viable tournament to which teams from the Northern Zone could be invited as guests on a rotational basis.
Simiyu said playing top South African clubs was possible, adding: “What we need are quality matches.”
The circuit, if made attractive to sponsors, could see the level of the 15’s game raised in the region to that of Safari Sevens.
Mike Aung, the team’s assistant captain, said the team’s confidence level was up.
“I have never worked with such a disciplined and focused team before. We had very challenging matches in Morocco and we should play more away games,” the Nondescripts RUFC utility forward suggested.
Aung had no doubt Kenya would retain the Elgon Cup. He explained that the match against Senegal and Morocco opened the eyes of most of the players to what is expected.
The forwards of Senegal and Morocco were quite big and physical, he said, while lamenting unfair play.
“There was also an element of dirty play and bad officiating,” he said.
Aung attributed the loss against Morocco to a weak defence which gifted the hosts soft tries.
Bad officiating was also on the lips of Otieno and team manager Wangila Simiyu.
The technical bench felt a red card to KCB utility player Andrew Amonde was harsh. Kenya was also penalised and at one time had only 13 players on the pitch after two were yellow-carded for minor offences.
Even the players did not mince words. Anthony Ogot and Edwin Alubaka, who sustained injuries, were a testimony to the dirty tricks.
Kenya will meanwhile host another big age-grade tournament next month as seven top junior under-19 players gather in Nairobi for the CAR Under-19 tournament. Besides hosts Kenya, other teams are Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Zambia and Uganda.