Who Will It Be For The Semis?
After 19 weeks of pulsating, edge of the seat, sometimes health hazardous action, 14 have become 6. From that 6, 4 will be in action this weekend to determine who will play in the Semi finals.
For finishing 1st and 2nd, Impala and Kenya Harlequins will have a rest weekend, as Kabras Sugar, Nakuru RFC, Homeboyz and KCB battle to determine who will play them in the semi finals. Just to feel you in, in case the sevens got the better of you, Impala finished first after beating Strathmore 33-27, Quins came in second after a shock 27-25 loss to Homeboyz.
Kabras finished 3rd after thumping Thika 82-8, that result also saw Thika relegated from the top flight. The Djs finished in 4th after that win over Quins. KCB finished in 5th despite a 21-13 loss to Nakuru, the Wanyore finishing in 6th to wrap up the play off places. At the other end of the table, Machine pulled off another great escape, with a walk over win against Bungoma Sharks to ensure top flight status next season.
The mid table saw Mwamba draw 12 all against Nondies, a match the black shirts needed to win big, to at least stand a chance of making the play off. Kulabu finished in 8th, Nondies in 11th. Leos came in 7th after that loss to Impala, this is new territory for the previous play off mainstays. The result of the weekend went to Blak Blad who edged Western Bulls 7-5, in Kakamega.
You feel Blad could have finished much higher, given the form they were in. The Kenyatta University students finished in 10th spot, the Bulls in 9th.
Homeboyz vs KCB – 4PM, Jamuhuri grounds, Nairobi.
Kenya rugby’s version of ‘father vs son’ battle will play out it’s third round this season. So far, each has claimed one win. This weekend, alongside deciding who will play Impala in the semi, they will also have a little in-house supremacy to settle, who controls the remote?
The Djs had never beaten the Lions since their promotion to the Kenya Cup in 2012, that was until this season when they finally slayed the Lion 27-22 on Match Day 9. Before then the Lions had claimed a 28-0 and 41-5 wins in their double winning season, the previous coming in the Enterprise cup final.
Their most recent meeting ended in a 25-14 win for KCB on match day 16. As I mentioned earlier, Homeboyz finished in 4th, that feat earning them the hosting rights of this match.
The two have had almost similar runs this season, the 2 points separating them on the log a testament to that fact. While Homeboyz started the season slowly with a defeat at Nondies and a 10-8 win over Mwamba, KCB bursted off the blocks in the first 3 weeks falling at the 4th.
They then traded form in the closing weeks of the season, Homeboyz winning 3 in 3, the Lions winning 1 in 3, that one coming against the Bungoma Sharks.
At the weekend though, all that will count for nothing, what will happen over 80 minutes or maybe more, will be all that matters. Experience will favour the Lion, but recent form definitely goes with the Djs.
Both sides are expected to field largely the same sides that took on match day 19, with the sevens lads still on rest. Maxwell Kang’eri will partner Jeff Oluoch in mid field for the Djs, the partnership that delivered that round 1 win over the Lions, they will be up against Brian Omondi and James Kilonzo.
Jeff Oluoch was devastating in that first round win over KCB, he unfortunately missed the return through injury and will be looking to deliver another win here.
Haroun Lubisia will line up against Ken Andola in the battle of the boot at number 10, these two posses quite the kicking game, whether for territory or for post. Kelvin Masai of Homeboyz will be lining up against his predecessor in that 9 shirt, Michael Wanjala who since moved to KCB. This battle will go a long way in deciding how this match will play out.
In the engine room, Thomas Okidia, Philip Ikambili, Paul Muikia, Andrew Chogo and Emmanuel Mavala will battle it out against Moses Amusala, George Asin, Francis Mwita and Oliver Mang’eni. These gentlemen will be the match deciders when they do battle at scrums and line outs.
On the two occasions they have met this season, Andrew Chogo has been outstanding at the line out, handing Oliver Mang’eni a real run for his money. It is bound to be another epic battle in the air between the two line out generals. Steve Otieno, Humphrey Mulama and Elisha Okello will start at the Homeboyz back row, to face Rocky Aguko, Peter Waitere and Ian Indimuli.
Interestingly, Homeboyz have decided to play Alvine Otieno at blind side wing, it will be interesting to see how he performs, given he only landed back on Tuesday and has had quite the hectic schedule with the Kenya sevens. He probably won’t mind his opposite number, the diminutive Edwin Salamba.
Speaking of returns, KCB also have one on their bench, Peter Karia jetted back from South Africa where he played in the Varsity league shield final for UWC. This shows just how important this match up is for both these sides.
Key Match UP
Jeff Oluoch vs James Kilonzo.
Keep a close eye on Jeff Oluoch vs James Kilonzo at #13, the two quick and strong young centers are bound to deliver a battle like no other on the day. They both like taking the direct route, backed by their explosive set of wheels.
Kabras Sugar RFC vs Nakuru RFC – 4PM, Kakamega Show grounds.
Another ‘house battle,’ this one of the Rai house, as the Mengai oil refineries sponsored Nakuru take on the Kabras sugar side, both companies tracing their ownership to the Rai Family, handing this match up the fitting title of the Rai Cup.
Since Kabras’ promotion last year, these two have met 4 times in the league, both sides winning two a piece. Kabras won the most recent meeting, 33-26 at the NAC. Before that they famously won last year’s semi final at the same venue 15-12. Interestingly, perhaps in true brotherhood character, none of these sides has beaten the other, at home. Nakuru’s two wins have come in Kakamega, 13-10 last season, and 16-5 on match day 4.
At some point during the regular season, we had written off these two from the title race, but strong finishes have seen the two finish in 3rd and 6th on 69 and 66 points as earlier mentioned.
The last time these two met in a knock out scenario was at that Kenya cup semi final at the NAC, we all remember how that went. This weekend Kabras will have the hosting rights, will the result from last season still hold?
The biggest news in this one is probably the return of that man Mike Okombe to the Nakuru back row where he will partner Lawi Buyachi and Dalmus Chituyi. This will definitely be Nakuru’s most lethal weapon at the weekend alongside Philip Kwame and Edwins Makori, Papa will be playing with his preferred ‘loose 5.’
Leslie Ochieng will once again marshal the backs from inside centre, with Ayah and Javan Murayi on either side. They will have their hands full with Kabras expected to partner Nick Barasa and Fabian Olando in mid field, with Jasper Ochen at fly half.
The key men for Kabras will be Duncan Mwangi and Hillary Mwanjila at the front row, with Anthony Ogot and Max Adaka expected to lead the forwards. Jone Kubu and Brian Tanga doing the job at the backs. Nakuru will probably come in with the upper hand at the forwards an advantage they will be looking to make the most out of, with Kabras likely to play through the likes of Nick Barasa, Fabian Olando and Aluda Beda.
Key Match ups
Max Adaka vs Lawi Buyachi.
The battle between the two Kenya internationals is bound to be the pick of the bunch. These two are known for their devastating breaks from the back of the scrum. Whoever can make the most of his at the weekend will have probably handed his side the win.
The Eric Shirley Shield is also in it’s play offs stage, with the same sides featuring :
KCB II vs Nakuru II – Jamuhuri grounds, 2:00 PM.
Kabras II vs Homeboyz II – Kakamega Showgrounds, 2:00 PM.
The winner from the first one meets Impala II in the semi finals with the other one meeting Quins II.
The battle for the Kenya cup slots enters the semi final stage with the following fixtures lined up at the RFUEA:
United Kisumu v Catholic Monks – 2:00 PM.
USIU v Moi University – 4:00 PM.