This year’s Victoria Cup, a rugby competition between Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe may not be played after two countries, Uganda and Zimbabwe pulled out.
According to the fixtures released by Kenya Rugby Football Union two weeks ago, Zimbabwe, the current cup holders were supposed to host Uganda on July 21 in Harare and next week travel to play Kenya in Nairobi.
But, Uganda also pulled out last year citing financial constraints although the Elgon Cup matches between Kenya and Uganda also doubled up as Victoria Cup fixtures.
There are conflicting reports though amidst silence whether the competition was on or not. According to some accounts, it was Uganda who pulled out first citing financial constraints.
When Sportsnewsarena.com contacted Uganda Rugby Union officials after the CAR Cup in Tunisia, they explained the start of Victoria Cup was too soon. A highly-placed URU official said they were looking at alternative dates and were surprised when Kenya Rugby Union released the fixtures ‘without’ consulting them.
Other reports say it was Zimbabwe who had withdrawn citing financial problems after winning the CAR Cup. But, it is also possible that Zimbabwe, the new Africa champions put their foot down saying they would only play if all the fixtures were honoured by all teams. “It is not economical to play only one country,” a Zimbabwe official told Sportsnewsarena.com.
So it is a puzzle whether it was Uganda or Zimbabwe who pulled out first and then Zimbabwe decided that it was not worth the expenses playing only Kenya for the title which they still hold. Perhaps a more creditable explanation is that Zimbabwe sponsors Delta put their foot down and declined to bail out Zimbabwe Rugby Union out of their financial woes.
Kenya team was due to resume training on Friday while Uganda was supposed to travel to Zimbabwe and play on Saturday according to the fixtures released by the Kenya Rugby Union. William Blick, the Uganda Rugby Union, when contacted by sportsnewsarena.com said they had not been consulted when the fixtures were being drawn.
The latest development affects what could have been a resurgence for the region following a shift in the balance of power from North to sub-Sahara. Tunisia and Morocco who used to be invincible in CAR competitions have dropped out of CAR’s top tier competition which now has Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya and Madagascar.
Max Muniafu a former Kenya captain and coach remembers the dominance. “They were tough and talk was that a lot of the players were in the French leagues. I wonder whether that has changed.”
The fearsome backrower in his heydays argues that a poor development program could have attributed to the shift. “It could also be as a result of preference shift in French leagues who prefer players of Polynesian background and could also be an improvement in the forwards by the sub-Saharan teams who have always relied on their backs.”
He remembers Tunisia thriving on the platform by their forwards. “I remember a very excellent number 6 and a tight five that kept possession well.”
Moses Kola remembers a 52-5 drubbing by Tunisia in 1997 in Tunis. He has played at the intimidating Casablanca and Tunis venues. “I think the competition in the Elgon and Victoria Cup is beginning to beat fruits. This is coupled with Kenya’s occasional games against South African teams and the Four Nations’ tournament in Dubai last year.” He further explains that the two North African teams are content with CAR Cup.
The fixtures as released by KRU
July 21: Zimbabwe v Uganda; July 28: Kenya v Zimbabwe; August 4: Uganda v Zimbabwe; August 11: Zimbabwe v Kenya.
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