2023 RWC qualifiers: Kenya Simbas vs Uganda Cranes Preview

Uganda Cranes Ivan Magomu evades Kenya Simbas marker. Photo Courtesy/Uganda Rugby
Uganda Cranes Ivan Magomu evades Kenya Simbas marker. Photo Courtesy/Uganda Rugby

On Saturday 2 July 2022, Kenya Simbas will face Uganda Cranes in an East African Derby scheduled for Stade Maurice-David in Aix-en-Provence at 4:00 PM East African Time.

The two sides are only 240 minutes away from qualifying for the first World Cup and will be looking to win the game to advance to the semi-finals of the Rugby Africa Cup which is also serving as the qualification route for Africa.

Head to Head

The two sides will be facing off for the first time since 2019 with their annual Elgon Cup face-off having been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 and 2021 editions were cancelled.

The last times they met, the Simbas beat Uganda 16-5 at Kyadondo Grounds to win the fourth consecutive Elgon Cup title.  The Simbas had lost the first leg encounter held in Kisumu’s Mamboleo Grounds 16-13.

The Simbas have been dominant in this fixture winning eight of the last 10 meetings. They have suffered one loss and shared spoils once in the last 10 meetings. Kenya lead the overall head to head in matches played between the two teams pre and post Elgon Cup with 25 wins while Uganda has registered 12 wins.

Last 10 meetings between Simbas and Cranes

2019 13 July:  Uganda Cranes 5-16 Kenya Simbas
2019 22 June:  Kenya Simbas 13 – 16 Uganda Cranes
2018 7 June: Kenya Simbas 38 – 22 Uganda Cranes
2018 26 May Uganda Cranes 16 – 34 Kenya Simbas
2017 24 June Kenya Simbas 33 – 33 Uganda Cranes
2017 10 June Uganda Cranes 15 – 23 Kenya Simbas
2016 30 July Kenya Simbas 45 – 24 Uganda Cranes
2016 4 June Uganda Cranes 10 – 48 Kenya Simbas
2013 10 July Uganda Cranes 11 – 51 Kenya Simbas Non-Elgon Cup match.
2013 22 June Uganda Cranes 13 – 19 Kenya Simbas

Kenya Simbas

Kenya Simbas head to the match as favourites if the Head to Head record is to go by. They have had what former Simbas captain Dickie Evans believes has been proper preparation for the qualifiers. Evans in his call to action statement to raise funds for the Simbas said: “The Currie Cup campaign was designed to build our amateur players into a team of the standard of full-time professionals, able to compete on the World stage. Every match in the tournament saw a build up in fitness, skills and resilience. Over the last 10 weeks the performance has improved beyond my wildest dreams such that this Simbas team, if they play to their full potential, can actually make it to the World Cup. We are on the verge of making history!! ”

The Simbas head to the qualifier having featured in the Currie Cup. The Simbas ended the campaign with a 41-24 win over the Eastern Province Elephants at the RFUEA Grounds in mid June. In their second last match at the same venue, they defeated the outgoing champions Leopards 51-35.

Though the Simbas failed to roar against Falcons (51-44), Zimbabwe Goshawks (22-21), Griffons (66-33), Boland Cavaliers (43-33), and South Western District (24-7) they head to France heads high after impressing in the final two matches of the Currie Cup.

Editor’s Pick

Paul Odera picked a squad that is a mix of experience and youth, with just eight players over the age of 30 and ten under the age of 23. The team is made up of ten players that have graduated from Kenya’s Under 20 squad since 2015. Odera included five players who were part of his Rugby Africa Barthes Cup winning squad that also represented Africa in the World Rugby Junior Trophy in Brazil in 2019.The five are Samuel Asati, Dominic Coulson, John Okoth, Andrew Matoka, and Andrew Siminyu.

The experienced members of the team include former Captain Davis Chenge, Martin Owilah, George Nyambua, Darwin Mukidza, Ephraim Oduor, Patrick Ouko, Joseph Odero who have been in set up for a while and were part of the squad that featured in the Repechage in France.

The Simbas head to France ranked 35th on World Rankings and will be seeking to rise to the top 30 at the end of the tournament.

Uganda Cranes

Uganda Cranes will head to France seeking to emulate their 7s teams that have defeated Kenya 7s teams in the World Cup qualifiers.  They will also exude confidence now that they are on neutral ground.

The Cranes are under newly appointed Head Coach Fred Mudoola who will be in the dug out for the first time in the quarterfinal match having replaced Brian Makalama and Robert Musinguzi who were put in charge in 2021 replacing the late Robert Seguya.

Just like his Kenyan counterpart, he has gone for a blend of  experience and youth.  He picked seven uncapped players namely Alema Ruhweza, Akera Komaketch, Alhaji Manano, Thomas Gwokto, James Mugisha, Timothy Odongo and Joseph Oyet.

The Coach has picked three foreign-based players for the tournament and they include French-based utility back Philip Wokorach, Kabras prop Asuman Mugerwa and Kenya Harlequin’s Mark Omoding.

Wokorach heads to France as the only player to feature for both the Sevens and 15s national teams in this window.

France have been less active in terms of build up matches unlike their opponents but will be looking to cause an upset and proceed to the semis.

Players to watch

Kenya Simbas will be hoping that Fijian born playmaker Jone Kubu will stay on top of his game as he has been in he previous encounters. The player  put up Man of the match performances in the 2021 pool stage matches, had a  similar performance during the Stellenbosch Challenge where he was named the player of the tournament and impressed in the Currie Cup Division One matches. Should he carry a similar form to this tournament he will give the Simbas an upper hand.

George Nyambua, Darwin Mukidza, Bethuel Anami are some of the players that the coach will be looking at to deliver a semi-final ticket.

For Uganda, Wokorach played a key role as Uganda defeated Kenya in the Rugby Africa Men’s 7s matches and they will looking at him to deliver in the longer version.  The player currently plays for AS Bédarrides – Châteauneuf-du-Pape and they will be hoping that the experience he has gained in France will help them deliver another upset.

Uganda also have the likes Omoding, Mugerwa, Eliphaz Emong, Solomon Okia, Charles Uhuru, Pius Ogena and Scott Oluoch who understand Kenyan players well having had the Kenya Cup experience.

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