Bigger, Better Nationwide Kicks Off At The Weekend
Behind the shadows of the Kenya cup, lies the true bedrock of Kenya rugby, the Nationwide league. The 62 team league is set to kick off this Saturday with a total of 27 matches spread across the country.
The 2014/15 league will see an additional 5 sides join the race to the Kenya cup, from the 57 that took part last season. With promotion to the top flight now a reality, expect a real battle from the very first whistle.
This season’s league will also see the split of the Nairobi and Rift valley regions into two pools. The Nairobi region will see a total of 16 sides, up from the 13 that played last year, divided into pools of eight, with two from the 16 progressing to the National quarter finals.
Rift Valley region with a total of 12 teams, up from the 9 from last season, will be divided into two pools of 6. The rest of the regions remain as was last season with Central, Western and Coast regions rounding up the list of the 5 conferences.
The early favourites this season are the two sides that were relegated from the Kenya cup in Kisumu and Eldoret. The University of Eldoret, Masaku, Thika, Kakamega, TUK and Kakamega rounding up that list on the basis that they made it to the National play-offs last year.
The addition of Masaku, Stormers, Machakos and Cooperative RFC will definitely stir things up in this region, which produced one of the two sides that earned promotion to the Kenya cup. This conference will provide two teams for the National play-offs.
USIU finished second, behind the Catholic Monks after the league phase last year. With the absence of the Monks in this year’s competition, the Thika road side will be looking to go one better and top the region.
USIU and indeed all the sides in this region, will realise that this year will be a lot trickier than it was last year. As I mentioned earlier, the battle will be split into two pools of eight and with the addition of the likes of Masaku and Stormers, competition is bound to go up a notch or two.
Pool A will feature USIU, Nazarene, Brumbies, Multimedia, MKU Nairobi, Stormers, Machakos and Mwamba III. A tricky looking pool with Stormers set to give USIU a run for their money, the Stormers finished top of the Coast region last season. Mwamba III are also expected to put up a great performance to better their 6th place finish last season.
Pool B will definitely be the pool of death with TUK, Daystar, KCA, Comras, KEMU Nairobi, Masaku, Cooperative college and Impala III battling it out.
TUK finished third in this region last season, 2 points ahead of Daystar who finished fourth. The two are expected to be the front runners here. They are joined on that list by Masaku who were second place finishers in the Coast region.
Cooperative college who are making their début, will be looking to hit the ground running. As the likes of KEMU Nairobi, KCA and Impala III looking to better last year’s postings.
The opening weekend in this region will see USIU taking on Mwamba III in the highlight match in Pool A. TUK will be hosting Impala III in Pool B’s stand out fixture.
Nairobi Conference Collated Fixtures :
USIU vs Mwamba III – USIU, 3pm.
Nazarene vs Machakos -Nazarene, 3pm.
Brumbies vs Stormers -EA Uni(Kitengela), 3pm.
Multimedia vs MKU Nairobi -Nazarene, 1pm.
TUK vs Impala III – UON, 3pm.
Daystar vs Cooperative – Athi River, 3pm.
KCA vs Masaku – KCA, 3pm.
Comras vs KEMU – Pangani Grounds, 3pm.
The Western conference hosts one of the sides that were relegated from the Kenya cup in Kisumu RFC. It was a season to forget for the Kondele boys and with new management, the side will look to bury the memories in style by earning promotion back to the top flight.
The 14 sides in this conference will be battling for the two tickets available to the National play-offs. The list of 14 reads as follows : Kisumu, Kakamega, Bungoma RFC, Masinde Muliro, Shieywe, MKU Kakamega, Kisii RFC, Siaya RFC, Maseno University, Homabay RFC, Webuye RFC, Bungoma RFC, Sangalo Institute and Mbale RFC.
Sangalo Institute and Mbale will be making their debut in the bedrock of Kenya rugby and are set for a real test over the next few months. At the top of the pile, expect to see Kisumu as I had mentioned, Kakamega RFC who finished second last year, Bungoma, Masinde Muliro and Shieywe.
Sangalo Institute will however have to wait a bit longer to play their first match as their opening encounter, against Kakamega was postponed. The rest of the sides will be opening their season’s as planned, Kisumu will be hosting new comers Mbale, as Masinde Muliro welcome Webuye to the Kakamega Show grounds.
Western Conference Collated Fixtures :
Kisumu vs Mbale -Kisumu Show Grounds Mambolea 3pm
Bungoma vs K Sharks -Kanduyi Stadium 3pm
Masinde Muliro vs Webuye -Kakamega Show 3pm
Shieywe vs Homabay –Kakamega High 3pm
MKU Kakamega vs Maseno –Kakamega Show 1pm (tbc)
Kisii vs Siaya -Gusii Stadium 3pm
Rift Valley Conference
The great rift welcomes four new sides in Kapsabet, KPA Eldoret, Eldoret RFC and the Rift Valley Institute who replace Molo RFC, as a result the conference now houses 12 sides who will battle it out for two tickets to the National play offs.
The 12 sides are divided into 2 pools of six teams, Pool A features all the three new comers in Kapasabet, KPA Eldoret and Eldoret RFC. They are joined by Kitale, Moi University and the University of Eldoret. UoE will be the favourites from this pool having finished second last season, they are set to face their biggest challenge from Moi University.
Pool B sees the Egerton Wasps, who topped this conference last season take on Kericho, RVIST, Naivasha, Kabarak and Nakuru III. Their biggest challenge in this pool is most likely to come from Nakuru III who coincidentally finished in third place last season. Kericho who were fourth are also set to give a good account of themselves in this Pool.
Egerton open their season against Nakuru III in the highlight match of Pool A, new comers Eldoret and KPA Eldoret will battle it out in what looks like an Eldoret derby.
Rift Valley Collated Fixtures :
Eldoret vs KPA Eldoret – Eldoret Sports Club, 3pm
Kitale vs UOE – Kitale Club, 3pm
Moi Uni vs Kapsabet – Moi Uni 3pm
Egerton vs Nakuru III – Egerton, 3pm
Kericho vs Kabarak – Kericho Teachers College
RVIST vs Naivasha – RVIST 3pm
With the top two sides from last season in Masaku and Stormers, moving to the Nairobi conference it will be all to fight for this year. Also on that trip to the capital is Machakos RFC.
The conference is reduced to 8 sides as a result of those transfers, they however welcome the Kilifi Sultans taking their total to 9 sides.
The Kilifi Sultans will kick off their campaign against last season’s third placed side, the Technical University of Mombasa. TUM will be favourites not only for that match but to grab the sole ticket to the national play-offs from this conference.
The Spartans will sit out this weekend, other matches will see the South coast pirates take on Pwani University as the Shepherds take on Taita Taveta.
Coast Conference Collated Fixtures :
TUM vs Kilifi -Hamisi High School TUM 3pm (tbc)
S c Pirates vs Pwani Uni -Show Ground Ukunda
Malindi vs C Raiders -Malindi High 3pm
Shepherds vs Taita Taveta -St Joseph’s Kaloleni 3pm
11 sides will be battling for the single ticket from this region to the National play offs. Last season, Thika RFC picked up that ticket, edging KEMU in the last week of the league. This year, Makueni and MKU Thika have joined the fray.
KEMU and Thika RFC will be expected to once more lead the race for that slot in the National quarter finals. They will however be wary of the likes of Laikipia and Dedan Kimathi University who also had a good outing last year.
Thika will not be in action this weekend, KEMU will open their campaign against MKU Thika, as Laikipia host Makueni.
Collated Central Conference Fixtures :
KEMU vs MKU Thika -Meru School 3pm
Laikipia vs Makueni -Nanyuki sports Club 3pm
Embu vs Karatina -Embu High 3pm
Let the race to the Kenya Cup Begin…