The Kenya national men’s fifteens team, popularly known as the Kenya Simbas, went down 19-20 to visitors Senegal in their opening match of the Rugby Africa Cup played on Saturday 3 July at the Nyayo National Stadium.
The Simbas came into this match a clear favorite given that they were home and are ranked twenty-two places above their opponents.
Paul Odera was taking charge of the side for the first time since he oversaw a Victoria Cup triumph against Zimbabwe two years ago and he believes there is no other way he would have prepared his charges for the task.
“I feel extreme disappointment and sadness. No regret really because I do not think that I would have prepared the players any different than I did,” says Odera.
Heading into the match, Odera named seven debutants and one, Jone Kubu, came through with a Man of the Match performance scoring fourteen of Kenya’s nineteen points.
Odera however believes something must change if the Simbas are to turn their World Cup qualification chances around.
“There is also a lot of introspection; I have to look at myself as a coach, and my leadership of the team and what needs to change to get us to the next phase of the World Cup Qualifiers next year,” adds Odera.
The Simbas will look to avoid disappointment of the same ilk when they face Zambia next weekend. The top two teams in each of the four RugbyAfrica Cup pools will qualify for a straight knockout Rugby Africa Cup 2022. The winner of the competition will head to the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.
As for now, Odera is convinced they will have to take the tougher route. “Right now we have made our life very difficult,” concludes Odera.
The Simbas will be back in action against Zambia on Sunday 11July at the Nyayo Stadium for their second match of the Rugby Africa Cup. Senegal will also take on Zambia on Wednesday 7 July at the same venue.
– James Njenga