Time To Defend The Mountain
It is once again that time of year, when we welcome our great neighbours Uganda to the battle for the mountain.
Last year we literally wiped the floor with our opponents over the two legs, claiming the triple crowns on offer. The U-19 side winning the inaugural U19 competition 37-27, the Lionesses beating the Lady Cranes with a record 72-25 score and Kenya A charging to a 48-21 result over the Uganda Rugby Cranes.
In fairness to Uganda, last year was quite a tough one for them. This year though expect a far more competitive set of Cranes coming our way, especially with the second leg in Kampala. We will hover not have an U-19 category this time, which is rather disappointing, as it exposed our young guns to top flight rugby.
Kenya Lionesses vs Uganda Lady Cranes (K.O 1:30 PM)
The Kenya Lionesses were in superior form last year, charging to a record score line. It was impressive stuff from the ladies as they turned on the style against a team that used to run rings around them in their formative years.
With the women’s league kicking off in April, expect the Lionesses to be even better than they were last year. With 6 debutantes in the match day 23, this is one of the most exciting ladies squads I have seen.
Sinaida Aura who has taken the rugby scene by storm starts at wing with Imogen Emily who ran over literally everything and one in last week’s league fixtures starts from the bench.
The side will however miss the services of inspirational half back pairing of captain Doreen Remour and Mary Musieka. They will also be without Celestine Masinde, Irene Otieno and Mary Otieno. In the absence of Doreen, Camyline Oyuayo will take up the captaincy, with Kate Abila starting at 10 to partner with Lydia Shikanda at 9.
The other debutantes include Emily Adero, Lydia Shikanda who will start alongside Sinaida. Sophie Ayieka and Cynthia Camila will earn their first caps from the bench.
On their part, the Lady Cranes have named 7 new faces in their travelling party which is a testament to the growth of the ladies game in both countries. The squad will be missing two notable players in Christine Kizito and Helen Buteme who have hanged their boots, the latter will be travelling with the side as S&C coach.
They still however have some experienced faces in there, the likes of Charlotte Mudoola, Asha Nakityo Nabulime and Brenda Kayiyi who takes over the captaincy.
I expect a different and exciting ball game on Saturday, with such an array of new players this tie could swing either way.
Kenya Lionesses : Emily Adero, Rosehilda Kamanga, Emily Achieng Oloo, Racheal Adhiambo, Millicent Opala, Sheila Chajira, Evelyn Odera, Camyline Oyuayo, Lydia Shikanda, Kate Abila, Linet Moraa, Philadelphia Olando, Janet Awuor, Sinaida Aura, Janet Akello, Keziah Achieng, Janet Midecha, Imogen Emily Hooper, Dorcas Ocholi, Clementine Atieno, Cynthia Camila, Sophie Ayieka, Jordan Weaver.
Uganda Lady Cranes : Forwards: Irene Nzigge, Scovia Aketo, Peace Mirembe, Phionah Nalubwama, Charity Atimango, Claire Anena, Fortunate Irankunda, Hellen Gizamba, Emmanuella Oroma, Stella Kyalikunda, Prossy Nakakande, Mary Nakanyike, Peace Wokorach. Backs: Charlotte Mudoola, Harriet Kayonjo, Gilder Azikuru, Brenda Kayiyi, Asha Nakityo Nabulime, Hildah Nyiraguhirwa, Samiya Ayikoru, Rachel Babirye Kakaire, Grace Auma, Mary Odoyi Kyoita.
Kenya A vs Uganda Rugby Cranes (K.O – 4:00 PM)
This one I expect to be a rendition of a Wazee-Vijana encounter, with Kenya handing their promising young charges a taste of international footie. Uganda seem to have gone the experience way, perhaps using this as preparation for the division 1B championships.
From the side that lifted the Elgon cup last year only 4 will be taking to the RFUEA to defend that title. They are Eden Agero, Ken Moseti, Rocky Aguko and captain Edwins Makori. Elkins Musonye played in the first leg in Uganda but did not feature in Nairobi.
For the Cranes, Brian Odong, Asuman Mugerwa, Ronald Musajja, David Kyewalabye, Joseph Aredo, Oscar Kalyango and Justin Kimono return from the squad that lost here last year.
The Cranes have an obvious advantage physically and I expect them to use it especially at the forwards. With the likes of Odong, Scott and Ronald Musajja, they will look to play a compact game and knock their hosts off the turf.
In many ways, this has the markings of the Simbas match against Portugal, if this side replicate what the senior side did then we will be home and dry. We should look to play very quick ball at the set piece and wear out our heavier opponents.
The first and the last 20 minutes will be vital here, if we can withstand the storm that will hit us in the opening 20, then blow them away in the last 20 we will get the result. Our territorial play also needs to be on point, the pairing of Ken Moseti and Eden Agero will be vital in this encounter.
Though we do not pack as heavy a punch in the forwards as our opponents, but with Edwins Makori, Phillip Owuor, Michael Gitau and Charles Omondi we have enough to unsettle any defence line. Cyprian Kuto, Brian Omondi and Anthony Nyandigisi form an exciting partnership in the backs and are expected to be our main outlets.
I will be happy with a strong performance here, looking at the bigger picture of building our rugby, though the result will play a big part in my happiness.
Kenya A : McLanhan Sikuku, George Asin, Francis Akatu, Michael Gitau, Philip Owuor, Stafford Abeka, Edwins Makori, Charles Omondi Backs: Eden Agero, Kennedy Moseti, Cyprian Kuto, Brian Omondi, Anthony Nyandigisi, Alvin Otieno, Essau Otieno, Brian Otieno, Nesta Okotch, Elkins Musonye, Elton Isiaho, Rocky Aguko, Victor Wayodi, Max Kang’eri, William Mawira.
Uganda Rugby Cranes : Brian Odongo, Asuman Mugerwa,Dennis Mullo,Alex Mubiru,Cyrus Watum,Ronald Musajja,Scott Oluoch,Dennis Mugambi,Charles Uhuru,Collins Kimbowa,Pius Ogena,Mathias Ochwo,Arthur Mpande. Backs: David Kyewalabye,Oscar Kalyango,Chris Lubanga,Justin Kimono,Michael Wokorach,Kevin Makmot,Joseph Aredo,Ramathan Govole,Lawrence Sebuliba,Gerard Sewankambo.
I hear Harare is 1200 miles from here, well the Simbas will be kicking off their Division 1A campaign against that side that denied us a spot at the World Cup. After the performance against Portugal, expectations will be high that we avenge that loss to Zimbabwe at the qualifiers.