The 2022/23 Kenya Cup returns this weekend with 12 sides all in the race to back the title that is currently held by Kabras RFC.
The Scrummage Africa takes a look at some of the things that you should look out for in this campaign:
1. Kabras, KCB and Menengai Oilers’ consistency
Kabras RFC, KCB rugby and Menengai Oilers have been consistent in the previous seasons and will be keen to carry the form this season. Since their promotion in 2014, the Kabras have routinely appeared in all finals and have finished first in the regular season for the past three seasons. Kabras RFC will be eager to join Nondies, KCB, Nakuru RFC, Impala Saracens, Mean Machine, and Kenya Harlequin on the list of Kenya Cup champions that managed to retain the Kenya Cup title.
Following another Kenya Cup three-peat, KCB failed to win silverware in the past season. It was also the first time they have failed to make the final since 2016. Curtis Olago’s charges will enter the new season determined to recapture the trophy they lost last season, as well as to dethrone Kabras.
Menengai Oilers have steadily improved since their promotion in 2018. They finished seventh in their debut season, sixth in their second season, and were Kenya Cup finalists last season. Last season, they broke their winless streak against Impala Saracens and KCB. Kabras RFC also needed a second-half comeback to defeat the Nakuru-based side. Gibson Weru is always looking to improve his performance, thus beating KCB once again, breaking his winless streak against Kabras and winning Kenya Cup will be top of his priority list.
2. Kenya Harlequin under Pau
Kenya Harlequin have had a significant coach turnover in recent seasons. Since 2018, Charles Cardovillis, Dominique Habimana, Antoine Plasman (Belgian), Patrice Agunda, and Amady Diallo (Senegalese) have been in charge. Only Cardovillis guided the team to the semifinals of the Kenya Cup and the Enterprise Cup. Last season, the team avoided relegation thanks to a head-to-head tie breaker.
They head to the new season under former Homeboyz Head Coach Paul Murunga. Murunga will be in charge of the first game Kenya Cup game since 2018. Before leaving Homeboyz to take up National Team duties, Murunga had led the side to back to back semi-final appearance and led them to their maiden 15s silverware, the Enterprise Cup in 2018. He also had immense success in the shorter version winning two National 7s Circuit titles.
With Quins also under an new executive they will be hoping to send strong statement under Pau.
3. Performance of non-university/Non-cooperate clubs
Clubs that are not affiliated with cooperatives or Universities have all had difficulties in running their operations. It takes a lot of money to honor matches, pay allowances, and treat players, and teams struggle without it. Some may claim that university teams suffer comparable challenges, but they are at least certain of honoring matches because institutions provide buses for transport.
The post-Covid-19 time has been difficult for some non-cooperate as they struggle to honor matches, making competing at the highest level difficult. There is a need for more sponsors to come on board and support clubs to make them more competitive.
Five Varsity teams will compete in the Kenya Cup, which should be the most Varsity teams in recent memory. The previous two seasons included Strathmore Leos, Blak Blad, and MMUST, who were joined by Mean Machine and Catholic Monks. Mean Machine had been in the second tier for two seasons, while Monks are back in the top tier after eight seasons.
The two will be motivated to follow in the footsteps of Strathmore Leos, Blak Blad and MMUST, who mounted formidable challenges after promotions and avoided relegation.
The varsity teams should be wary of other clubs who will be targeting them in an effort to have maximum points against them during the season.
It will also be interesting to watch whenever they face off in the season.
5.Oscar Okaron in Homeboyz dugout
Homeboyz will proceed to the another new season after some uncertainty. The 2018 Enterprise Cup champions had notified Kenya Cup that they would not be participating in the new season. Scrummage Africa understands that the Deejays changed their minds after ‘interventions.’
They have joined Kabras and Quins on the list of high turn-over of coaches. Since Pau’s exit, they have had Simon Odongo on two stints, Jason Hector and former Kenya 7s skipper Oscar Ayodi who also left his role.
This season, they will be led by former player Oscar Okaron. With a section of fans online calling for his appointment to the Kenya under 20 squad, this will be a good starting point. Though he has tricky role, it will be interesting to see how he performs.
6. Kabras RFC under the another South African tactician
The coaches’ curse struck Kabras yet again, and history-maker Jerome Muller, who led them to their second Kenya Cup title in six years and the first double, is no longer with them.
This means that Kabras will begin the new season with a new head coach, Carlos Katywa, and without key Kenyan international players who will require rest before returning to action. Katywa is no stranger to Kabras, having previously served as a forwards coach and an assistant coach.
Based on previous interviews, he appears to be a man with a bigger plan for the side, and as the man who turned around Rhodes Rugby in South Africa, Kabras fans will be hoping to see him do the same here.
Except for Zimbwabwean Mzingaye Nyathi, who didn’t lead the side for more than five games, all of Kabras’ new coaches have played in the Kenya Cup final. Katywa would not want to be unique.
Coach Charles Cardovillis and Godfrey Okoth, among others, have previously received long-term bans for criticizing referees.
The question that fans have yet to receive an answer to is whether referees are punished for poor officiating.
Because it is a new season, referees are expected to have improved in order to avoid leaving teams uncertified.
Last season, relegation was decided on the final day, with the head-to-head tie breaker deciding that Impala Saracens would be relegated and Kenya Harlequin, who had a lower points difference, would be promoted.
Former Kenya Cup champions Impala and Nondies were relegated, while two-time champions Nakuru RFC had to beat Menengai Oilers on the final day to stay on top.
It will be interesting to see if newly promoted sides will mount strong challenges and push more core sides back into the relegation zone this season.
9. New talents
Each season unleashes new talents to the world and it is always exciting when young players rise to the occasion. The preseason has seen clubs test new talents and young players and it will be lovely to see how they will be utilized in this campaign.