What next after Elgon Cup?

By the punter
Jul 22, 2021
  • Kenya A was a different team from teh one that lost to Uganda Cranes in the first and emerged 34-0 winners in the return leg match at the RFUEA ground. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Hong Kong is the next hunting ground for Kenya Lionesses who roared and carried the day against Uganda's Lady Cranes in Elgon Cup. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • The future is bright for Kenya after the under-19 won the inaugural Elgon Cup. Namibia is the next stop for these young players. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

The obvious question after Kenya emphatically won the three titles on offer at this year’s Elgon Cup is how the performance could be sustained and improved.

After Elgon Cup, the players are likely to go back to their clubs and prepare for the seven-a-side circuit before the 15’s season starts again sometime in October. The training regime at the national and club level is not the same.

The national team which relinquished the Africa Cup in Madagascar has been on recess and it is unlikely they will have any quality matches to maintain their shape. In the absence of friendly matches, the players depend on club duties to remain focused.

Unfortunately, development is barely in the agenda of the Kenya Rugby Union whose Board of Directors are in the press for other reasons.

Let’s look back at the Elgon Cup. After the first leg, Kenya was 1-2 down after winning only one match in Kyadondo RFC ground. The winning margin was nothing to shout about and Uganda teams would have known that the return leg at the RFUEA ground would be an uphill task.

The whistle at full time inspired a Kenya A side to give an answer in less than five days. Remember, Elgon Cup was in doubt after Kenya’s participation in the RWC qualifiers in Madagascar and a Kenya A side was deemed not good enough for Uganda.

It does not matter that barely a week before the Elgon Cup, Uganda had been relegated to the lower division CAR 1C competition.

Dominique Habimana, head coach of the Kenya A side went back to the drawing boards and recalls it was a collective belief that “the game was ours to win.”

Sheer focus was a joy to see

Buoyed by this belief, the Kenya A side worked hard on the departments which misfired in Kampala. “The sheer focus was a joy to see,” states the coach. Key in the forwards were great leadership from Giles Littlewood and the captain Edwin Makori, together with strength and exceptional work rate from the entire pack.

Then, there were the three brains of the day, Eden Agero, Isaac Adimo, and Nato Simiyu who produced a level of collaboration and an orchestration that's rare within a single game! Their command of the entire team in both attack and defense was really superb.

Kenya A forwards were great and produced constant ball, and also executed many turnovers. The scrum half, fly-half and full-back interchanged positions freely in open play, thus ensuring really quick ball all the time.

When Justin Kimono, the lethal Uganda Cranes winger was injured, the work rate and approach by Kenya A did not waver.

“Kimono is a good player but we did not fall into the trap of basing our defense on a single individual or move. No matter who they put out there we were going to contain them,” explains Habimana who was assisted by Tito Oduk and Innocent Simiyu.

The unit play ensured Kenya A had plenty of pace, a much better defensive structure and discipline.

The success across the board which was initiated by a Kenya Lioness win over Lady Cranes and Chipu (the under-19 team) vindicated KRU from what could have been an embarrassment after they decided to rest the core team.

Going forward, Habimana agreed it was important to have the bulk of the core team take a back seat and rest and suggested they should be kept busy in both the local league and organize regular international matches at all levels.

Uganda could have shot themselves in the foot because of a similar bickering between the Uganda Rugby Union officials which has spilled on the pitch. As a result, the preparations were not sufficient.

Past glory

They (Uganda) appeared to rely on past glory whjch saw them win the annual diadem twice. “I think they wanted to force us into errors, and then keep the scoreboard ticking with three-pointers. We knew this and worked on our breakdown management, as well as territorial play,” explained Habimana.

Uganda Cranes only had two kickable penalties in the first half.

Enos Otieno, the Kenya Lionesses coach attributed the team’s power show to proper conditioning and fitness. “Players from the seven-a-side team showed class,” he added.

Kenya will be travelling to Hong Kong in September for a tournament in which four teams will qualify as core teams for the Women’s Sevens World Series.

The Kenya under-19 could be the busiest because they have the CAR tournament in Namibia and the Youth Olympic Games in China next month.

Paul Murunga, the coach believes this is the way forward especially if Kenya is to develop players for the future and more importantly the next Rugby World Cup.

Back to the KRU Board. When you realize the game is bigger than everyone, turn your boardroom energies and burn them on rugby rather than where they are directed at the moment. Rugby is bigger than all of us.

Results

Kenya A 34 Uganda Cranes 0 (Aggregate Kenya A 51 Uganda Cranes 21).

Kenya Lionesses 39 Uganda Lady Cranes 10 (Aggregate Kenya Lionesses 72 Lady Cranes 25).

Kenya under-19 27 Uganda under-19 12 (Aggregate Kenya u-19 37 Uganda u-19 27).

Elgon Cup roll: 2004: Kenya, 2005 Not held, 2006 Uganda, 2007 Kenya, 2008 Kenya, 2009, Kenya, 2010 Kenya, 2011 Kenya, 2012 Uganda, 2013 Kenya, 2014 Kenya.