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Kenya gears up for Olympic handball qualifiers

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AGNES MAKHANDIA

By AGNES MAKHANDIA
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National men’s handball team coach Peter Mwathi has dared his side to go for the sole continental slot during next year’s Olympic qualifiers in Tunisia.

While Mwathi is aware it’s not going to be a walk in the park considering it’s the first time Kenya will be gracing the January 15-25 event, he remains optimistic of the team pulling a surprise.

The tactician noted that should the team fail to book the sole slot for the 2020 bonanza, they should push for a position six finish as that will qualify them to the 2021 World Championship to be held in Egypt.

“This is a case of killing two birds with one stone and we have to get atleast one bird. The teams we are going to face in the 10-day event are tough, but we are training hard to leave a mark at the event.

This is a totally young squad and they are willing to learn and we hope by the time the event comes calling, we will be at the better place,” noted Mwathi, after guiding his side to two friendly wins against Kenyatta and Strathmore University at the Kaloleni grounds on Saturday.

The national outfit won against Kenyatta University 35-27 and 39-19 against Strathmore University.

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Mwathi said only players from Kenya Defence Forces and international Tyrus Omondi of Rwanda Police are yet to report to non-residential camp, but remained hopefully that it will be a full house by Monday.

KDF players are Nicholas Otieno, Nicholas Ireri and Gideon Mulwa.

“The players in the camp are gelling well and I hope those who are yet to hit the camp will do so and failure to do that, we might be forced to start planning without them going forward ,”said Mwathi, who doubles up as the Strathmore coach.

Denmark-based player Brian Mathews said the youthful squad has what it takes to ruffle a few feathers at the event.

“This is a total different squad and top players drawn from various clubs that feature in the ongoing Kenya Handball Federation national league. Their energy is amazing and with the training we have had so far, I think we are headed in the right direction and we can only get better,” said the left back.

The East Africa side has been drawn in pool A alongside Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea.

Kenya begin their title hunt against DRC on January 16, before they take on Egypt the following day. They complete the pool match with a tie against Guinea a day later.

Pool B has Angola, Nigeria, Libya and Gabon. Hosts Tunisia, Cameroun, Ivory Coast and Cape Verde are in group C, while pool D has attracted Morocco, Algeria, Congo and Zambia.

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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