Kenya Cup rugby league resumes on Saturday after the festive break with six matches on the card across the country.
Defending champions Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and leaders Kabras Sugar are favourites against visiting Mean Machine from the University of Nairobi and Menengai Oilers at Ruaraka and Kakamega respectively.
Impala Saracens have a tricky one against visiting Nondescript in what will be one of the mouth-watering matches of the double-header at the RFUEA that will see Kenya Harlequin host Nakuru.
Injury-hit Homeboyz welcome Blak Blad from Kenyatta University at the Jamhuri Park showground while Mwamba are away to Strathmore Leos at Madaraka.
Fijian fullback Jone Kubu is back at Kabras Sugar’s fold, having won them Kenya Cup title in 2016 before missing out during the 2017 season. Also set for return to Kabras is Kenyan international second row Andrew Chogo.
Kabras, which is the only side yet to lose this season, top the league standings with 25 points having won all their five matches with bonus points.
KCB will be without a couple of forwards who are out either with injuries or personal commitment including Kenya Simbas skipper Davis Chenge, Martin Owila, George Asin, Nick Ongeri and Andrew Amonde.
Others also not starting for KCB are Vincent Onyala and Jacob Ojee, who are with the Kenya Sevens team that will be leaving the country on January 19 for the next two legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Hamilton, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia.
“Owila is out for the season while we expect Chenge and Amonde in the next two weeks,” said KCB coach Curtis Olago. KCB are placed second with 20 points.
Impala Saracens and Nondies have also made some changes in the absence of some key players ahead of their battle.
Impala, who are placed third in the league with 17 points, have signed Ugandan international prop Saul Kivumbi from Uganda Rhinos. Impala have also raided Strathmore University stable for prop Elkeans Musonye and George Orembo, who will operate at fullback and right wing.
Frank Ndong' is happy to have influential backs Samuel Oliech and Nato Simiyu and forward Derrick Mayar back in training.
However, still out due to work commitment and injuries are locks Davis Makori and Shem Joseph as well as prop Joshua Momanyi.
Nondies will be without their suspended skipper Fidel Oloo and props Ernest Ndong' and Eric Shimoli. Centre Benjamin Marshals also got injured at Kenya Sevens training this week and is out for three weeks.
Though worried about the injuries, Nondies coach Willis Ojal has back row Lewis “Threeman” Ochieng back in training.
Homeboy will be without eight players who are on injury list including forwards Maxwell Kangeri, Zeden Maro and Dalmas Chituyi but coach Simon Odongo will be happy to welcome back lock Davis Imbuchi.
Mwamba takes the battle to the Leos with new strength upon the return of key players.
Fahad Mohamed, the club team manager, indicated that Billy Odhiambo, Edwin Machanje, Marvin “Matelong” Odiembo and Salaton Muturi have resumed training and are available for selection.
Other notable players who missed the first phase of the league matches and are now training include captain Patrick Ruhiu, loose head Brian “Gym” Otieno, Chris Hulk Asira and lock Paul Wahome.
Hookers Brian Kahura and Kevin Kerore have also recovered from their injuries and are equally raising their hands to catch the attention of head coach Kevin Wambua.
Saturday fixtures (all matches kick off at 4.00pm unless otherwise stated)
KCB v Mean Machine (Ruaraka)
Homeboyz v Blak Blad (Jamhuri Park)
Kenya Harlequin v Nakuru – 2:00pm (RFUEA)
Kabras Sugar v Menengai Oilers (Kakamega)
Impala Saracens v Nondescripts (RFUEA)
Strathmore Leos v Mwamba (Madaraka)