As the 29th edition of the Great Rift 10-a-side rugby extravaganza kicks off at Nakuru Athletics Club on Saturday, hosts Nakuru will be taking every match like a final.
And the side, popularly known as “Wanyore”, have every reason to win what they consider their cup and aptly build up for next weekend’s Kenya Cup semi-final play-off against Mwamba RFC.
Interestingly, Mwamba and Kenya Cup semi-finalists Kabras Sugar have skipped the popular, annual tournament to concentrate on preparing for the league.
Nakuru, under coach Felix Otieno, are in Pool “D” and will battle it out against their sibling rivals Menengai Oilers, rookies Makueni and unpredictable University of Nairobi's Mean Machine.
Coach Otieno said that he will be fielding a development side that comprises of young stars who will be playing their first major tournament at home.
“It is a young squad with an average age of 21 years who will be making their debut in the tournament and I am confident they will upset our rivals and boost our morale ahead of the Kenya Cup semis play-offs against Mwamba at home,” said Otieno.
He revealed at least three senior players, who are regular campaigners in the tournament namely Donald Alouch, Geoffrey Ominde both half backs and Charles Odongo, have been included in the team to given it some experience.
Among the young players in the squad who are expected to play a key role are 20-year-old Kelvin Omusebe, half back Anthony Oyugi (22), Edwin Aunda (22) and Hammington Wabwire (21).
Nakuru will miss the services of their utility player Munate Akuei who is serving a five-match ban.
Menengai Oilers head coach and former Kenya Sevens player Gibson Weru exuded confidence that his side will sail to the final of the Cup competition.
“This tournament is coming after our sweet victory against Mwamba in the Kenya Cup and I hope the boys will extend their winning ways and march to the final,” said Weru.
Menengai Cream Homeboyz are in Pool “A” and have an uphill task against Resolution Impala, Nondies and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
Bullish Nondies coach Willis Ojal said: “I want to use the tournament as a build up for the sevens series and change the mindset of the players since we are out of the Kenya Cup play-offs.”
Top contenders Kenya Commercial Bank are in a relatively easy Group “C” alongside Masinde Muliro University, Egerton Wasps and Kiambu.
The bankers may however field a development side.
Pool “D” is an all-university affair of Kenyatta University’s Blak Blad, Strathmore Leos, University of Eldoret and Moi University.
Order of play Saturday:
Impala v Nondies 8am, Home Boys v JKUAT 8.25am, KCB v Egerton Wasps 8.50am, Masinde Muliro v Kiambu 9.15am, Strathmore v University of Eldoret 9.40am, Blak Blad v Moi University 10.05am, Nakuru v Makueni 10.30am, Menengai Oilers v Mean Machine 10.55am, Impala v JKUAT 11.20am, Homeboyz v Nondies 11.45am, KCB v Kiambu 12.10pm, Masinde Muliro v Egerton Wasps 12.35pm,
Strathmore v Moi University 1pm, Blak Blad v University of Eldoret 1.25pm, Nakuru v M. Machine 1.50pm, Menengai Oilers v Makueni 2.15pm, Nondies v JKUAT 2.40pm, Homeboys v Impala 3.05pm, Egerton Wasps v Kiambu 3.30pm, Masinde Muliro v KCB 3.55pm, University of Eldoret v Moi University 4.20pm, Blak Blad v Strathmore 4.45pm, Makueni v M. Machine 5.10pm, Menegai Oilers v Nakuru 5.35pm