Batalla De Los Leones
On the evening of 18th July, there can only be one Lion left standing at the RFUEA grounds, when the Kenya Simbas take on Los Leones of Spain.
The two sides come into this test off the back of impressive wins, the Spanish beating World cup bound Namibia 20-3 in a World Rugby Nations cup encounter last month. The Simbas getting over a shaky start against Tunisia to maul the North Africans, 46-15.
The Lions of Spain are currently ranked 19th in the world, they finished 3rd out of 4 side in this year’s World rugby nations cup, only managing that win against Namibia. Other results saw them fall 35-9 to hosts and eventual winners Romania, before losing 15-6 to the Argentina Jaguars.
Head coach Santiago Santos travels to Nairobi with 10 players from the match day 23 that delivered that result against Namibia in Bucharest. Captain Jaime Maria Nava de Olano is among that list of ten that includes Pierre Garcia, Thibaut Florent Alvarez and Bradley Dean Linklater.
This should be the sternest test yet for the Simbas, with the Spanish being just as potent in the forwards as in the backs. Previous sides we have seen at the RFUEA this year, have suffered under our blistering pace, I expect Los Leones to match us in the backs. This coupled by their physical advantage in the forwards, should give us a real challenge.
Head coach Jerome Paarwater has made five changes to the match day 23 that ran over Tunisia last month. The most exciting change seeing Edwin Achayo back from an injury lay off, to start at 9 for the first time this year.
Other changes see Motari start in place of Fabian Olando at 13, Sammy Oliech starts at 10 with Adimo dropping to the bench and Vincent Mose starting at 15. Former Captain Wilson Kopondo will make his return from the bench, replacing Lyle Asiligwa with Jerome reverting to 5 forwards on the bench.
I don’t expect our general game play to change much here compared to the first two tests we’ve hosted. The Spanish will look to make a strong start off the blocks, rake in as many points as possible in the first half then hold on as the climatic conditions start to take a toll.
If we can contain them in the opening stages and keep them within touching distance on the score board in the early exchanges then we will have done half the job.
To complete the job, the side will have to run things in the closing stages of the game. Other than that we will have to play a highly territorial game. Sammy Oliech moving to 10, Achayo slotting directly to 9 and Mose at 15 should be testament to that. The three will be vital in this front.
The Achayo-Oliech partnership will be tasked with dictating the game’s tempo, once again those quick balls off the set pieces will be required. To one, get their heavier forwards keeping up with the pace and two, get our explosive backs prime ball.
All this is easier said than done, whichever way the Simbas technical bench decide to approach this encounter, one thing is for sure, there won’t be an easy way out. A win here would see us get into the twenties, inching closer to our target of a slot in the top 25.
This will be the last home test for the Simbas this year, with the side rounding up their 2015 fixtures in Windhoek against Namibia in a Division 1A encounter, on August 8th.
With two games to go, I’d say we have had a good set of results this year, good. The extended international calendar can not be appreciated enough.
The Simbas have really stood up to be counted, with more of the same in the years to come and a return to the Vodacom cup, we will be on the highway to the 2019 World cup.
Remember when I said this year has been good so far, you know what would make this a great one? Wins in our last two matches, and there’s one way you can help with this. Come out nice and early at the RFUEA this Saturday, get well hydrated as we cheer on the Simbas… #SimbaNiMoja