Why This Is Not Your Ordinary Rugby Weekend!
I struggle to remember the last time that I was this excited about a rugby weekend. If my memory serves me right it was before a certain weekend late July of 2014.
Coincidentally, in very similar circumstances, there was a sevens tournament in Masaku and the Simbas were ready to kick off their campaign at the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifier in Madagascar.
You will probably remember that weekend more for the tournament at my grand mother’s back yard than the rugby, I can’t blame you. To jog your memory, Kenya went ahead and beat Namibia (29-22) for only the second time in history, in their first match at the RWC qualifier, we had all but booked our ticket to play New Zealand in Pool C in the World Cup. Then Masaku hosted the most successful rugby tournament of recent times, both on and off the pitch.
Fast forward to August 2018 and the more things change, the more they remain the same, we are headed into the third leg of the Stanbic National Sevens series, to be played at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos and the Kenya Simbas are in Windhoek to face Namibia in a ‘winner takes all’ encounter for the African ticket to the 2019 Rugby World cup in Japan.
Can history repeat itself?
The Simbas Charge.
This match is a classic example of the brain vs heart situation, where what the heart wants is far from the reality the brain is processing. Like when you say you will one day date that crush that you cannot gather courage to speak to, while it might happen, chances are it won’t.
On paper, this is a near impossible task and we should be preparing for the repechage later in the year. Our run up to this match has been far from ideal, tight budgets have seen us play no warm up matches, have training camps in Nanyuki as opposed to South Africa and have had to cut down on literally everything, apart from the kit.
On the pitch our performances have been far from convincing with Snook seemingly not yet settled for his preferred line up, we have switched the match day 23 more than a teenage girl changes out fits before a date with the estate hunk. To his credit though, he has unearthed some great young gems that we might have not seen this soon, the likes of Xavier Kipng’etich, Mohammed Omollo, Coleman Were, Andrew Chogo, Patrick Ouko, Joseph Odero and Edmund Anya.
The team performance has been far from consistent and has left a lot to be desired, especially in the opening stages of the second half. Add to that the fact that the assistant coach who had earlier resigned for reasons best know to him, finally headed home before the Tunisia game (He was supposed to be the rugby brains of the technical bench).
But despite all this, we are here, at the same spot we were in in 2014, eighty minutes away from a first ever Rugby World Cup, playing in a location we have never won at, against a well oiled, drilled and ruthless opponent. Feels like a classic David vs Goliath battle, right?
There is something about the Kenyan spirit, especially in rugby where we perform when all the odds are stacked sky high against us, a perfect and recent example, Kenya 7s started winning when the shirt went blank and not from K-tape.
This is what gives me this great hope that we might just be able to again show the great Kenyan character this Saturday, we have a great bunch of boys who should all be fronted for state commendations for working through all this to get here. At the end of the day rugby is played within that 120 by 70 meter patch of grass and you know what they say about the bounce of a rugby ball.
We will have to be faultless against Namibia, looking at the travelling team we have what it takes to match the Namibians, if we can hog onto the ball and actually turn possession into points, we would have done half the job. So whose phone/laptop will we be hurdled around in Machakos to watch the game?
I have to start by commending Mwamba RFC for handing all of us a lesson on how to properly market a rugby tournament, by all indicators this is set to be the most successful tournament in the local circuit and not only this year’s. Kudos to the team.
Like the Kenya sevens internationals, this will be my first sevens series tournament of the year and from the reviews from the first two legs I am literally shaking with excitement at finally watching the action live.
Most notably, Mwamba seem to have gotten their sevens groove back, making two out of two cup finals, the DJs beating them at both occasions, the duo of KCB and Impala with luke warm starts so far, whatever happened to Kabras, Oilers? What is most exciting though is that the teams across the board feature some really young and exciting talent.
With the imminent return of the national team players, action at the Kabeberi 7s is bound to be, as they say, LIT!
On the other side of the globe, the Springboks ably led by Captain Siya Kolisi, will be playing, the rest are details.
Haya, nikyathela, tukomane Masaku.