Kenya could clinch Rugby Africa Gold Cup with an upset win over Namibia

By the punter
Jul 23, 2017
  • Kenya Simbas roared in Bulawayo and confidently march to Namibia for a Gold Cup match decider on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy)

The winner of this year’s Rugby Africa Gold Cup could be known on July 28, 2017 when two unbeaten sides, Namibia and Kenya face off in Windhoek.

But, the race for the top four positions could be down to arithmetic and the pecking order could be decided one week later, two weeks before the end of the expanded version of Africa’s top tier competition.

The puzzle begins on Saturday when Namibia host Kenya while Zimbabwe await Tunisia.

The Namibians top the table with 19 points with one match left to complete their fixtures. Any win against Kenya will enable them retain the trophy.

The scenario would be different if second-placed Kenya who have 16 points beat Namibia at home for the first time.

It could mean the two teams would be locked on 20 points if Namibia collect a losing bonus. A superior point’s difference would hand them the trophy at the expense of Kenya.

Uganda and Zimbabwe could be out of contention for the top spot but not the second place.

The Zimbabweans can collect a maximum 10 points from their remaining two matches. They host Tunisia and travel to Uganda one week later.

Ten maximum points would mean they finish on 15 points which could see them dislodge Uganda from the third spot if Kenya lose to Namibia.

A win against Tunisia with a bonus point and a loss to Uganda will see them finish below Uganda who could collect up to five points to boost their total tally to 16 from the current 11.

Therefore, the race for the top four positions is still open until the next matches on July 28.

Tough going

Senegal and Tunisia who were included in this year’s expanded competition have found the going tough.

Senegal’s best result to date has been a 16-17 loss to Uganda where they earned their only losing bonus points.

Returnees Tunisia could be missing some of their top players and have been a shadow of their former past glory. They were comprehensively beaten by Kenya, Namibia and Uganda.

On Saturday, Kenya who would travel straight to Namibia beat Zimbabwe 41-22 in Bulawayo, a six hour bus ride from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare.

Jerome Paarwater, the Kenya 15’s head coach attributed the win over Zimbabwe in to patience.

Speaking to the Kenya Rugby Union website, Paarwater acknowledged: “The game was about patience…the guys stuck to their guns…we didn’t play too much rugby in our 22..that was the plan..to keep them and play them in their half and hit them with the mauls..the guys played to the plan today.It wasn’t about playing expensive and funny rugby… it was about playing winning rugby..it was ugly but the score shows it was actually a good game.”

Although Kenya won, the South African coach is still unhappy. “There were so many positives to draw from this game but the one negative is that I am still not happy with the one on one tackles,” he observed.

Before the match, Paarwater had urged his charges to remain focused. He predicted a tough challenge after Zimbabwe nearly beat away.

He said: “The team that keeps their composure longer will prevail..I have reminded the boys to focus on what we do best and not to be distracted by other things on the field. We are ready for the game.”

This much they did and it is with this frame of mind that the team departs for Namibia on Sunday. Uganda who lost 24-48 to Namibia host Zimbabwe on August 5.

Mukidza set the mood

Kenya were returning to Hartsfield Ground in Bulawayo for the first time in 13 years.

Darwin Mukidza set the mood by kicking over a penalty but, Hilton Mudariki, attacking from the base replied with a try which Tich Makwanya converted for a 7-3 lead.

Although Kenya soaked up pressure from the hosts, Peter Karia’s offload set up Samson Onsomu for a try under the sticks. Mukidza, one of the top points scorers in the competition added the extras for the lead to change hands 10-7 in Kenya’s favor.

But the lead lasted only a few minutes before the hosts struck back when Takudzwa Kumadiro went over at the right hand corner for his sixth try of the championship as the hosts now led 12-10.

A patient build up saw Kenya play a territorial game. They kept possession after kicking for touch. From the ensuing lineout and rolling maul, Davis Chenge barged over and Mukidza was sure giving the Kenyans a 17-12 lead at the break.

On resumption, Moses Amusala crossed the chalk line and Mukidza converted to stretch the lead 24-12. Zimbabwe replied with a penalty by Makwanya and a Daniel Caspopoulous’ converted try to come to within two points.

But after surviving incessant pressure from the hosts. Martin Owila scored off the maul and Mukidza converted for a 31-22 lead.

Wilson Kopondo exploited a static Zimbabwe defense, carried the ball for 20 meters before touching down with Mukidza adding a conversion and penalty to seal the scores.

Line ups

Kenya: 15.Tony Onyango, 14. Darwin Mukidza, 13. David Ambunya, 12. Leo Seje, 11. Jacob Ojee, 10. Isaac Adimo, 9. Samson Onsomu, 1. Moses Amusala, 2. Peter Karia, 3. Curtis Lilako, 4. Wilson Kopondo (Captain), 5. Simon Muniafu, 6. Eric Kerre, 7. Davis Chenge, 8. Joshua Chisanga; Replacements: 16. Philip Ikambili, 17. Oscar Simiyu, 18. Bramwell Mayaka, 19. George Nyambua, 20. Martin Owila, 21. Lyle Asiligwa, 22. Kenny Andola, 23. Dennis Muhanji.

Zimbabwe: 15. Lenience Tambwera, 14. Takudzwa Kumadiro, 13. Daniel Caspopoulous, 12. Gavin Nyawata, 11. Stephan Hunduza, 10. Tichafara Makwanya, 9. Hilton Mudariki, 1. Denford Mutamangira, 2.Tolerance Zishe, 3. Lawrence Cleminson, 4. Brian Nyaude, 5. Fortune Chipendo, 6. Jacques Leitao, 7. Connor Pritchard, 8. Njabulo Ndlovu; Replacements: 16. Royal Mwale, 17. Irvine Nduwa, 18. David Makanda, 19. Bisele Tshamala, 20. Takudzwa Mandiwaza, 21.Scotty Jones, 22. Ngoni Chibuwe, 23. Tadius Daznadiwanzira.

Fixtures

June 24: Kenya 33 Uganda 33, Senegal 16 Zimbabwe 28.

July 1: Senegal 16 Uganda 17, Tunisia 7 Namibia 53.

July 8: Kenya 100 Tunisia 10, Namibia 95 Senegal 0.

July 15: Kenya 45 Senegal 20, Uganda 78 Tunisia 17, Namibia 31 Zimbabwe 26.

July 22: Uganda 24 Namibia 48, Zimbabwe 22 Kenya 41.

July 28: Zimbabwe v Tunisia (Harare), Namibia v Kenya (Windhoek).

August 5: Uganda v Zimbabwe (Kampala), Tunisia v Senegal (Monastir).

Additional reporting, KRU