The Kenya Cup Dream XV
The curtains have fallen, the dusts settled, mud and water puddles dried up, on what was the most exciting Kenya cup season we have seen in recent times. It is time to pick the dream team.
Over 22 weeks, we have witnessed the best of 15’s rugby the country has to offer. During that period we were treated to mouth watering, edge of the seat, heart stopping action. At the heart of it all were gallant soldiers who week after week, took hit after hit, to compete for the greatest trophy in the land.
Before we head on to the dream xv, I want to salute every player, coach, physio from the 14 sides that played this season’s Kenya cup. Thank you for putting up a show that got the world to stand and stare, despite the challenges. You are the real MVPs!
Out of the almost 500 players that played in the Kenya cup (490, estimating that each side used at least 35 players), there was a handful that stood out, these are my 15. I will try justify why I settled for each one of them, and not the other three or four who warranted the same position.
1. Hillary Mwajilwa – Kabras Sugar – The bouncer/Dj, picks himself here. He has been outstanding at tight head. A monster at scrum time and devastating with ball in hand. His performances have earned him a call up to the Simbas training camp, if he can transform his form in the league to the national side there is no overlooking the burly Kabras man. Moses Amusala, and Stephen Juma were the others worth a mention.
2. George Asin – KCB – Ever since he made his return from ‘retirement’ George Asin has been a man on a mission. While he might not be your text book hooker, what he misses in terms of set plays he more than makes up for in his bag full of tricks. Kenya’s Dan Coles has been by far the stand out man in the number 2 shirt. Though his selection might be aided by the absence of club mate Peter Karia and the dipping Sammy Warui, the pot bellied Asin more than deserves this slot. Sad he couldn’t make the cut in the national side. Philip Ikambili of the Homeboyz is the other player to have made a mark in this position.
3. Curtis Lilako – KCB – It has not been a good season for the KCB skipper, by the high standards we hold him to. After picking up the top try and points scorer accolades last season, most expected that he would be in the same form this season, he has been a far cry from it. Despite all this, he still makes it here. As when placed against the rest of the loose heads in the league, he still stands out. He has been by far the most all round and consistent performer in this position. Isaiah Nyariki, Dennis Karani and Duncan Mwangi are the others worth a mention.
4. Philip Kwame – Nakuru – For the life of me, I can not understand how this ‘one arm wrecking machine’ gets over looked time and again. He might not be the biggest of locks, especially for a #4, who should be a real bruiser. But his lanky posture is one of the most powerful in the league. How do you explain him being consistently at the engine room of the most revered scrum in the country over the last 3 years? Kwame picks up the number 4 shirt for his tireless work ethic at set piece and breakdown and exceptional skill for a lock. He is like an extra back row. His club captain Edwins Makori who trades places with him here, Davis Makori of Impala and George Otieno of Kabras also had great seasons in this position.
5. Tony Mutai – Kenya Harlequin – He has been by far the best #5 in the league, a line out general per excellence. Quins owe a lot of their successes this season to this old chap. It was how he could marshal his charges and dictate the pace of matches that stood out. He is one of those locks who can comfortably fit in to either 4 or 5, a bruiser with some of the best organisational skill both at line out and open play. Anthony Ogot of Kabras, Oliver Mang’eni of KCB and Simon Muniafu of Impala were the other stand outs.
6. Mike Okombe – Nakuru – One of the few positions that had very few doubts, if any. Mike Okombe has been the best bind side flanker in the country, for close to 4 years now. Okombe is one of the few players who is as devastating with ball in hand as he is without. I still think he should get a professional contract in one of the more developed rugby nations, he is just too good. Apart from him in this position, Brian Nyikuli of Strathmore who can play throughout the backrow, Tyson Okoth of Impala and Peter Waitere of KCB were the other stand outs.
7. Tony Owuor – Strathmore – The towering back row, was not only the stand out player at the Leos this season, but in his position in the league. Tony was exceptional with ball in hand, his powerful runs saving Leos’ blushes time and again during the season. His contributions at line out time are also worth a mention, it is always an added advantage when you have a 6 foot plus monster in your line out. Paul Mutsami of Impala deserves a special mention here, for a man almost half Owuor’s height he had an almost equally impressive season at 7. Apenisa Natambua of Kabras was also immense.
8. Joshua Chisanga – Homeboyz – Before you start pointing out that Joshua left the Homeboyz and that there were other good number 8s this season, hear me out. Joshu left for the Falcons, just before match day 12, meaning he had played 11 games for the Homeboyz, more than half the regular season. During this time he had no peer at number 8, the Djs campaign was anchored around him. Before match day 12, Homeboyz were a serious title contender, they had beaten Nakuru, KCB and Kabras. After his departure those title credentials took a hit, though they did make the play off, you feel that had he been around they would have gone further.
The reign makes my squad for being the most valuable player to a team in the league, his sheer impact on the Homeboyz, not only as a player but as a leader is unmatched. I don’t need to go over his abilities at 8, now do I? Duncan Ekasi of Impala comes closest to Joshu, followed by Max Adaka.
9. Edwin Achayo – Kabras – I must admit that this was one of the harder selections in this squad, the hardest one is still to come. I’ll admit that Achayo hasn’t had the most game time this season, but it was his impact when he did play that earns him this slot. He was one of the main reasons behind Kabras’ turn around mid season, around when he returned to playing. He might not be flashiest of number 9s, but it is his game organisation and awareness, he reminds me of one Peter Mutai or even Fourie Du Preez. He always seems to know what to do, where to do it and when to do it. His calm head will be missed at the Simbas if he is not called up. Other stand out performers here are without doubt Samson Onsomu of Impala and Geoffrey Ominde of Nakuru either of whom would have slotted in here on any other day.
10. Nato Simiyu – Impala – This one was another of those that picked themselves, there has not been a more consistent top and influential performer as Nato this season. Whenever we mentioned the prowess of Impala, we had to start with this man. It was a blinder of a season from Nato, it was how he sublimely opened up defences time and again that amazed us all. His vision and execution was second to none. He was for me the league’s most valuable player, though Impala didn’t have to play many games without him, you feel his contribution would have been greatly missed. Kevin Keegan and the maestro Lavin Asego were the other stand out players here.
11. Ian Minjire – Impala – The lanky Impala back, was another influential figure at the Sarries. Though he only came back to the squad mid way through the season, when he did step onto the pitch he was the stood head and shoulders above his peers, like he does physically. His aerial prowess, and finishing was exceptional, for a tall guy he packs quite the deft step. His 11 tries a few short of the league’s top try scorer, a true testament to his prowess. Others that deserve a mention here are Brian Tanga of Kabras, Alvin Otieno of Homeboyz, Cyprian Kuto of Strathmore and Gramwel Bunyasi of Nakuru.
12. Patrice Agunda – Kenya Harlequin – Another tough one, but Patrice edges it in terms of consistency and impact to his side. Agunda has been the ‘Sure’ in his side’s sure strong superior tag line, the always dependable go to guy. What Tony Mutai was in the forwards, Patrice was in the backs. A strong ball carrier and tough defender, a work horse. He is one of those players that doesn’t seem to know how to give any less than 110% every time he is out there. He beats former team mate Nick Barasa of Kabras and Brad Owako of Mwamba.
13. Fabian Olando – Kabras – This is one of the positions I feel that we lack enough specialists, like we do at front row. I can only pick 4 outside centers that have played consistently this season, Olando, Ambunya of Quins, James Kilonzo of KCB and Billy Omondi of Impala. The rest of the sides have been deploying make shift 13s, testing different players as the season went on. Admittedly Olando did not have the best of season’s especially at the start, but he picked it up at the turn of the year to remind us just how good he is at outside center. Placed against Ambunya and Kilonzo, he just edges it for me.
14. William Mawira – Kenya Harlequin – The marauding Quins winger, went about his business rather unnoticed, much until the stats for the top try scorer were released just before the play offs. Mawira topped the charts with 15 tries, a position he held to the end of the season, gathering over 18 tries. That translates to almost one try per game week, that he is the most prolific finisher in the league is clear. That by itself earns him this slot. Aluda Beda of Kabras was the other stand out performer, though with not such an impressive return as William. Pius Shiundu who plays across the back three, Ginton Adongo and Kevin Ochami were the other performers.
15. Jone Kubu vs Darwin Mukidza – Remember when I mentioned that the hardest pick in this squad is yet to come? Well here it is, and I still can’t pick between Jone Kubu and Darwin Mukidza.
This is where you come in, if you look to the left of your screen, scroll up a bit, you will notice a poll. You can either make your pick there or, in the comments section. Feel free to add why you picked who you picked, and even give us your Kenya cup dream XV!