Nyikuli to captain Kenya against Portugal

By francis marangu
May 26, 2021
  • Jerome Paarwater, the Kenya coach braces for one of his toughest challenges when he lines up against Portugal on Saturday at the RFUEA ground. (SNA File Photo)

  • Charles Ngovi, one of the assistant coaches recently returned from a coaching course in France. (SNA File Photo)

Brian Nyikuli, a Strathmore University forward will captain Kenya fifteens rugby team in their international test match against Portugal this weekend at the RFUEA ground.

He was elevated to full captain after deputizing Wilson K’Opondo in several international assignments. This being the first test match involving a European team on Kenyan soil, Nyikuli is ready to lead the team to victory.

“Being the first ever high profile test match to be played at home, it is a privilege for me. There is obviously the pressure to impress in front of home fans but I am up to it,”  he said after Monday’s training session at Barclays Sports Club.

Ahead of the match reviewed videos of their opponents to have a good understanding of their style of play. Portugal have not had too much of play in Africa but that has not stopped Kenya from digging into their opponents' play records.

Kenya plans to settle down early and contain their opponents upfront. One of the matches they have taken good review of is between Portugal and Georgia played early this year. “One thing we have realized is that they are very heavy. We will try to play a faster game and considering that our coach is from Western Province where they play fast rugby, we expect it not to be tough on us,” Nyikuli observed.

The other match against Spain in July has also been ratified by World Rugby. Kenya is ranked 32nd while Portugal lies 24th globally which is an enticement for the home boys to seek good results. “If we win both test matches at home and then perform well in the upcoming CAR fixtures, we will improve in ranking. That is our main plan.”

Wangila Simiyu. the team manager also believes they have what it takes to get a win against Portugal on Saturday. “Namibia is ranked two places higher than Portugal and we beat them last year. There is no reason why we should not win against Portugal because pressure is on their side and not on us.”

The final 23-man squad for Kenya to face Portugal will be announced on Tuesday. Dennis Muhanji who has been nursing an injury is back in training and will be competing against five others for the four slots at back three.

Places not guaranreed

Simiyu said players will be selected purely on merit. “It’s all about performance so no player is guaranteed a place in the team. In all areas, players will be ranked as per their performance in training then the best are picked.” The team to be named is expected to be a blend of both young and experienced faces.

Nyikuli said their chemistry in training gives hope of a good performance. “In 15s, we are a family. We take the shortest time possible to gel and work as a team. On the pitch, it is impossible to say who is a young player and who is an experienced one because everybody knows his role,” he said.

Portugal has already named their travelling party that includes eight players who play in France and arrive in the country on Wednesday morning. Compared to Kenya, they appear to be stronger on paper but Nyikuli does not believe so.

“That does not give them an advantage at all. At Vodacom Cup last year, we played eight games against players we never knew and still managed to put up a strong show. We don’t want to concentrate more on their individual players but results will speak for us on Saturday.”

He is also satisfied with the training the team has gone through. “We assembled one week after Enterprise Cup so all players were fit enough. For the first time, I saw players reporting for training on the first day and thirty minutes earlier which showed their commitment.”

Portugal Squad: Adrien Timoteo (Tricastrin, France), André Sayal de Aquino (AEIS Técnico), Anthony Alphonse Alves (Montluçon Rugby, France), António Augusto Tibúrcio Ferrador (GD Direito), Cyrile Walter Andreu (Aubenas, France), David Cristovão dos Reis (RC Chateaurenard, France), Duarte Azevedo de Brito Marques Diniz (GD Direito), Diogo Pedreira Van Der Toorn (CDUL), Eric dos Santos Madeira (Biarritz, France), Franciso Lemos Costa Velez Domingues (Agronomia), Gonçalo Nunes Barata de Sousa Uva (GD Direito), João Pedro Monjardino Cabaço (GD Direito), João Diogo Cadima Leite da Silva (Associação Académica de Coimbra), Jorge Rafael Pinto Bivar Segurado (GD Direito), Manuel de Carvalho Madureira Vilela Pereira (GD Direito), Maxime Tonietta (US Oyonnax, France), Miguel Maria Gonçalves Vilaça (CDUL), Thibault Stéphane João de Freitas (Castanet), Tomás Mourato Vermelho Mega Appleton (CDUL), Tonny Martins (Limoges, France), Vasco Nunes Barata de Sousa Uva (GD Direito),Tomás Noronha (CDUL), Yannick Yves Marie Ricardo (FC Villefranchois, France).

Management: Carlos Alexandre Lopes Domingues Febrero (Manager), João Luís Freixo Pinto (Coach), Henrique Coelho Graça Rocha (Coach), Francisco António Sanches Moreira (Doctor),César Filipe Rodrigues Cortes Gonçalves (Physio).