10 Players To Watch Out For In 2018.
A Happy new year to one and all, we are glad that you made it to 2018 in one piece, minus the money maybe, and are settling down well. That 2018 is a big year for Kenyan rugby is a fact that can’t be over emphasized.
Top of that list is the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifiers set for some time in July, the Commonwealth and Sevens world cup for the Shujaa, another stab at being a core side in the ladies sevens series and a possible Junior World Rugby Trophy qualification on the cards for the Chipu.
Locally the leagues are set for a shorter run, up until late March with the complete 15s season winding up sometime in April. On this 10th day of 2018, allow us to look into our magical crystal ball (like we did last year) and share the 10 players we think are going to make their mark in 2018.
These are not your everyday household names, rather individuals who we think are on the brink of becoming just that in 2018. Here we go…
1. Xavier Kipng’etich (Resolution Impala Saracens)
He is the latest product from the seemingly endless ‘half back manufacturing plant’ that is Impala. Seeing him play, it is hard to believe that Xavier is barely 20 years old. His skill, vision and control of a game is impressive for such a young man. Currently deputizing his club captain Samson Onsomu, you can clearly see that he is picking a lot from his senior and as he showed us at the Floodies, he is ready to take up the 9 shirt. It goes without saying that he is part of the chipu squad.
Also keep an eye on the likes of Dan Ndome, Billy Omondi, Tyson Okoth, Mark Kwemoi, Timothy Makiya and Paul Mutsami from the Sarries.
2. Ronnie Omondi (Stanbic Mwamba)
While we are still on scrum halves, introducing Ronnie Omondi of Kulabu, the diminutive pocket rocket has been outstanding for the black shirts in the second half of 2017 and looks ready to carry on his impressive form in the new year. Almost in the fold of an ‘Aaron Smith-esque 9,’ he made his big break at the club during the sevens series and has not looked back since.
Also from the Railway club, keep an eye on Kevin Kerore and Alvin Okoth, both of whom are currently part of the Chipu set up.
3. Dominic Osino (Kabras Sugar RFC)
It looks like 2018 is going to be the year of pocket rocket scrum halves, as we add the third one on our list, Domimic Osino of Kabras.
Not a new name among the Kabras faithful, Dominic made his break early last year when he started for the sugar millers in the Enterprise cup final. From then he became the first choice sweeper in the title winning sevens side and now a main stay of the Kenya cup side. Armed with a sure tackle, deceptive pace and a vision for a gap, Dominic is set to take 2018 by storm with the likes of Achayo and Ivan Chirabo with him he has all the guidance he could require.
Andrew Chogo and Kelvin Kabole are other names to watch out for from the forest in Kakamega.
4. Levy Amunga (Blak Blad)
Those who had followed Levy’s progress in 2017 were surprised after he missed out on a run out with the Simbas, especially at a time that we had struggled at the position. If he keeps his 2017 form going then this will definitely be his year.
A fluid fly half armed with a deft boot, Levy will most certainly have the big clubs chasing after him once he graduates from the Kenyatta University. In the meantime he is an integral part of a strong Blad side with the likes of Ian Obukwa, Ivan Chebo and Wesley Kidiga.
5. Max Kang’eri (Menengai Cream Homeboyz RFC)
Another who totally owned 2017 but missed out on a Simbas call up, in his case it was largely due to injury. Kang’eri is not a new face to the Kenya rugby fan but we believe that in 2018, he will finally get his long overdue big break.
The devastating inside center who practically owned each and every opposite 12 he came across last year is expected to carry on his fine form in the new year after successfully recovering from a knee injury. He is expected to play an integral part in the DJs campaign this year alongside the likes of Jeff Oluoch, Polycap Odhiambo, Joshua Chisanga Mohamed Omollo and Michael Wanjala.
Also look out for William Diffu the 19 year old built like a tank, you have to be special to make the Homeboyz back row at whatever age, however to make it before you hit 20 years is something phenomenal. On that watch list add the free scoring Mark Wandeto, Stanley Isogol and Johnstone Olindi the last two who are part of the Chipu squad.
6. Clinton Odhiambo (Menengai Oilers)
Away from the Anduvates, Ombasas and Muregis, this man they call the Salamander has been an integral cog in the impressive Oilers side.
Even though playing in the Championship, the second row with the skill of a deft play maker has been impressive through out the Oilers’ campaign in both codes. A force in the line out and crunching both with ball in and out of hand, at this rate his 2018 will be one to remember.
I could just as well add the whole Oilers roaster here under others to watch out for, that is how impressive these kids have been.
7. Peter Waitere (KCB)
Probably the most illustrious name on this list, it seems like Peter has been around for eons, but he has barely touched his mid twenties and only completed his second full season in the top flight. We feel that the time is now prime for the silent assassin to take it to the next level. The young boy who we first saw during KCB’s reign in the sevens series is finally ready for the biggest stage, having consistently delivered for his side and now breaking into the leadership group of the Lions.
His silent demeanor might fool you, but he is a bare knuckle beast on the pitch, who can comfortably slot in anywhere in the back row off the pitch he can teach you a move or two on the dance floor. He has over time honed his rugby skill under the likes of Max Adaka, Andrew Amonde, Anthony Ogot, Dennis Mwanja, Philip Wamae, Ian Indimuli and more recently Davis Chenge and Brian Nyikuli.
Also from KCB watch out for Stephen Keter, Samuel Asati, Arthur Ochieng and Nick Ongeri who is almost at the same space as Waitere.
8. Kelvin Kioko (Top Fry Nakuru RFC)
In a restructuring Wanyore side, players like Kelvin Kioko give you the reassurance that the future of the Nakuru is in good hands.
The young outside center seems to be getting better by the day since we first spotted him sometime in 2016. 2018 can only get better for Kelvin. Alongside the likes of Monate Akuei (who made this list last year and has indeed lived up to expectation), Henry Ayah, the future of Nakuru does indeed seem bright.
9. Joseph Aredo – Sportpesa Kenya Harlequins
Out of the Ugandan contingent that has since turned the RFUEA grounds into little Kampala, Joseph Aredo catches our eye.
The former Kobs, cross code Ugandan International, doubles up as a fly half and full back is armed with a skill set few can aspire to. He first showed us how good he is when he played in the 2016 Christie sevens for the Betway Kobs. If he can carry this form into the Quins side, he can easily follow in Philip Wokorach’s steps, who left Uganda as a ‘luke warm’ player who many had under rated and went back as a definite starter for his national team.
Alongside Aredo, look out for his Ugandan counterparts Aaron Ofoyrwoth and Solomon Okia, alongside the likes of Frank Khalwalwe, Peter Misango, Eric Shikuku, Edward Shitanda and Brian Obwoya.
10. Ian Amara (Resolution Kisii RFC)
The flying blind side winger was one of the key players in Kisii’s promotion to the Kenya cup, leading in the club’s try scorer charts and was later picked as the club’s player of the year 2017.
He wasted no time opening his Kenya cup scoring account, going over against Nakuru RFC on match day 1 after having captained the Kisii side during the sevens series. If his form is anything to go by, the dancing winger seems to relish the opportunity to square it out with the big boys and is so far matching up.
Alongside the likes of George Sagini, Kevin Ogao, Amos Obae, Alvin Marube and Brian Mokua, Kisii’s chances of retaining Kenya cup status are very strong.
As always we have barely scratched the surface with this list, there is a host of top talent out there that I have missed, who you will be kind enough to remind me of in the comments section below.
We wish nothing but the very best to all the players working hard and turning out for their sides in 2018, may the odds forever be in your favour, we will always be here watching, ready to celebrate your successes and tell your stories.