Will It Be Second Time Lucky For Kabras?
In their very first season of asking, Kabras Sugar defied all the odds to reach the Kenya cup final, that one ending in a 27-3 defeat at the hands of KCB. That was last season.
Since then the sugar millers have invested heavily in their playing unit, bringing in a handful of new faces from within and across the boarders. This new crop of players had a torrid start to a campaign most had expected them to dominate from gun to tape.
They however got their act together in the new year, to put their season back in order, at the weekend they will be lining up in their second Kenya cup final in as many seasons.
Blocking their path to a maiden Kenya cup title, like it was last season, is a side that has been in a rich vein of form and has not tasted league glory in quite some time.
The Impala Saracens last lifted the Kenya cup in 2009, this final for them will be a culmination of years of rebuilding and hard work. Many had doubted that the Impala would ever re awaken, after sinking to historical lows in that period, their faithful had already learned to live with the ridicule, especially from you know who.
Seven years after picking up Kenya cup title number 10, the red shirts will have the 11th crown in sight, when they host Kabras Sugar.
As I mentioned earlier, these two have had contrasting routes to this final. While it was almost a foregone conclusion that Impala would play in the latter stages of the season, there was a point we all couldn’t see Kabras getting to the play off, let alone the final.
Wherever we think that this Kabras side has reached the end of their journey, they go ahead and pull a rabbit out of their hats and keep going. Sow will we be in for another ‘against the odds’ performance from the sugar millers or will Impala land title number 11?
These two have met three times in the league, once last season and twice in the current campaign. Kabras won the first ever meeting, at the Kakamega show grounds 45-27 in January of 2015. This season they have played out 31-14 and 25-13 results to Impala and Kabras respectively.
It has been no secret that Kabras have struggled when playing in the capital, of the 6 matches they played in Nairobi during the league phase they won 2, losing 3 and drawing one. Those wins coming against Nondies and Blakblad, the draw came against Mwamba. That record was however reduced to a mere statistic last weekend when the sugar millers edged out Quins 19-15 at the RFUEA.
Impala’s home record reads almost like a perfect script, only losing once in front of the pavilion, that loss coming at the hands of Quins on match day one. Their other 2 losses coming against the Quin away and this Kabras side, in Kakamega. That Impala are by far the in form side coming into this final is clear for everyone to see.
Both sides have predictably stuck to the same 23 that got them here, we will have some mouth watering match ups as well as stories to go with this one.
Last year, Fabian Olando and Max Adaka were in the green and blue of KCB facing Kabras in that final, they will be looking to join a very exclusive club of players who have lifted the Kenya cup with two different sides, in back to back seasons.
Brain Tanga, Aluda Beda, Anthony Ogot, Hillary Mwanjilwa, Levi Ochieng, Duncan Mwangi and Edwin Achayo will once again start for Kabras in the final, like they did last year. Perminus Macharia, Geoffrey Messo and Fidel Castro the only other players in this 23 who played in last year’s final will start from the bench.
Of the Impala 23 that will take the pitch on Saturday afternoon, only captain Duncan Ekasi alongside Nato Simiyu, Dennis Karani and Joel Omer were around, the last time Impala lifted a Kenya Cup. This, for most of the Impala squad will be the biggest game of their careers thus far.
Last season, Kabras blamed a lack of experience for their loss, this year I don’t think that will be an excuse for them.
On the green (or muddy brown) it is bound to be a highly tactical affair, Impala will probably stick to the blue print that won them the semi final against KCB. They played a highly territorial match, off the boot of Nato Simiyu and George Okowa and held on to possession selfishly.
Against the marauding Kabras forwards, their play will need to be pinpoint accurate, you don’t want to allow the likes of Duncan Mwangi, Sava Racigi (that guy who started the season at wing, but is now a Hooker), Geroge Otieno, Apensia Natabua and Max Adaka to dictate things in these conditions.
We will have the pleasure of watching perhaps two of the best scrums in the league go head to head, former Impala man Duncan Mwangi facing off against Dennis Karani, with Hillary Mwanjilwa lining up Stephen Juma on the other side. Line out maestro Anthony Ogot will be out to stifle Impala ball, when he goes up in the air against Simon Muniafu.
Key match ups :
Edwin Achayo, Jone Navuso vs Samson Onsomu, Nato Simiyu
This being a highly tactical match up, the two sets of generals will be absolutely vital components. Not that there has ever been a situation where the half backs are any less vital.
Edwin Achayo will probably carry more of the decision making burden, Navuso with only a handful of matches at 10 for Kabras. If his forwards secure him clean ball then he should have a field day and a world of options at his disposal. Naturally, Onsomu and Nato should be looking for quick ball off any break down to release their devastating backs, given these conditions however, that might need to take a back seat.
Against KCB, they managed proceedings with great command, Nato having a blinder off his boot, I already mentioned that this will be a bigger task for the Sarries, one that they will need to be up for.
Nick Barasa, Fabian Olando vs Innocent Simiyu, Israel Soi
At the center of the park, the Kenyan international pairing of Nick Barasa and Fabian Olando will be up against a contrasting pairing of Innocent Simiyu and Israel Soi.
Most will give this one to the Kenyan internationals, they have a decent number of games together under them, they seem more explosive and more dynamic at the same time. That is until you see the form that man Innocent Simiyu is in. Against KCB, he reminded us that there is no substitute to experience. He made Ken Moseti look pedestrian at best, reading and stopping any KCB play in it’s tracks.
In Israel Soi he has a pocket rocket who despite his diminutive stature, defends resolutely, if they do not keep close tabs on him, he might just be the Sarries’ golden boy.
Max Adaka vs Duncan Ekasi
By far the match up of the day, coincidentally the two skippers are Lenana School old boys, and are expected to put up a battle worthy of the rugby gods from the back of the scrum.
The two who almost stand at the same height, have had illustrious battles at number 8, with the shorter one having the upper hand ever since his days at KCB. At the weekend, that will hold for very little as the two set out for yet another Kenya cup winners’ medal in their personal cabinets.
The two have a similar style of play, both as devastating with ball in hand as without. On very few occasions this season, has either had to pick the ball from a back pedaling scrum, a testament to their two sets of forwards. Whoever gets a more solid platform at the weekend will have the upper hand in this bout.
Away from their individual JDs, as club captains, the onus will fall squarely on them to lead their respective sides to glory. Whoever does this at the end of the day will have won this one, and the two can sit down and have a cold one singing whatever songs they did on that farm school (Haha I had to throw this one here, I couldn’t help it, am sorry).
Other interesting battles will see George Okowa and the fleet footed Jone Kubu will face each other at full back, with Aluda Beda and Vincent Mose, Ian Minjire and Brian Taga squaring it out on either side.
So will it be second time lucky for Kabras or will Impala end their seven year wait for Kenya cup number 11?