Mwamba RFC has promoted seven players from their academy for the 2016/17 Kenya Cup season that gets underway this weekend. Unlike other top teams in the league, Mwamba was not active in the transfer window.
They signed two players only; Billy Odhiambo from Strathmore University and Alex Aturo from MKU Thika.
They have opted to advance the policy of using players who go through their youth system. Brian Obwaya, Emmanuel Omondi, Steve Sikuta, Sunday Bridgen, Mike Okima, Moses Lauda and George Ochieng have already played in the club’s test matches.
They have been impressive thus far according to the technical bench. Mwamba lost 19-26 on Saturday in their last build-up against Impala RFC.
Head coach Kevin Wambua is hopeful the new players will stand up to be counted in the Kenya Cup. Lavin Asego and Louis Kisia are some of the senior players who will play out alongside the youngsters.
“We just need the old guys to mentor the young players and we will get the winning mentality,” Wambua told Sports News Arena confident that his team will be competitive in the new season.
“We have confidence in these young players because it’s not the big names that win matches. Unlike other teams that went for big players, we have many young players in our academy that we need to give a chance at this top level.”
Kulabu last won the league in 1985 and have been struggling in recent years. They last played in the playoffs in 2012/13 season under Fijian coach Meli Tuni. John Mbai then took over but poor showing by the club prompted a change of guard this season.
Difficult winning the league at his first attempt
Wambua will be in-charge and the club’s management has set targets for him. But, Wambua says it will be difficult winning the league at his first attempt as he targets the best possible performance.
“I have worked with these players for a few weeks. I can’t say I will win the title this season because it’s a process,” he noted. “The management has given me a target of reaching playoffs and I will want to achieve that.”
Mwamba will play in Pool A of the league alongside Nakuru RFC, Kabras Sugar, KCB RFC, Mean Machine and Western Bulls. Pool B has Blak Blad, Homeboyz RFC, Impala RFC, Kenya Harlequin FC, Nondescripts RUFC and Strathmore University.
Mwamba will begin their campaign away to Nakuru this weekend.
Nakuru was as well not active in the transfer window with no signing. But, they lost Martin Owila to KCB and Joseph Odero to Kabras both on academic-related grounds. In their places, they have promoted Kelvin Kioko and Monate Akwei from the youth system.
“It’s easy for players in Nairobi to switch clubs because they are not inconvenienced a lot. That is one luxury we don’t enjoy at Nakuru because bringing players down there will mean a lot,” explained Enos Otieno, the new head coach at Nakuru replacing Dominique Habimana who left at the end of last season.
“With 24 games, it is going to be a long season. I am sure we will be building a game at a time.” Just like Wambua, he believes Nakuru has what it takes to measure up to competition in the league despite not luring big players to their side.
Otieno: playing culture will not change
Otieno said the club’s playing culture will not change much under his guidance. “We have experience which we will use to our advantage. People know the type of game Nakuru plays. This season, we will play all facets of rugby.”
There have been two new clubs formed in Nakuru this year; Menengai Oilers and Nakuru KITI. Otieno says they drew most of their players from the club which had an effect. “They have collectively taken about 30 players who were ready to play in Kenya Cup or graduate from our third team. But in terms of preparedness, we are ready for the new season than we were last year,” Otieno assured.
“Despite not playing many friendlies, we played on two consecutive weekends at Impala Floodlit. The matches were tough and a good preparation for us. Against KCB, we lost by two points after making a huge comeback. We were winning that match considering the many penalties we won.”
On Saturday, Nakuru lost 29-31 to Impala in a build-up match. Impala has also opted to stick to their young players for the new season. “The fact that we have our academy is the sole reason why we didn’t sign those big players,” Impala’s Director of Rugby Fred Ollows said.
The second-tier league will begin this weekend as well and has been renamed the Championship. It remains to be the gateway to Kenya Cup. It has adopted the same format as that of the Kenya Cup with teams playing in two pools of six teams each.
Pool A has Thika RFC, Mombasa RFC, JKUAT Cougars, Catholic University Monks, South Coast Pirates and Kenya Methodist University with Pool B comprising of Bungoma Sharks, Kisumu RFC, Kisii RFC, USIU-A, Moi University and University of Eldoret.