Harambee Stars begins its 2019 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup defence with a game against rivals Tanzania at the Lugogo Stadium in Kampala on Sunday afternoon.
Coach Francis Kimanzi is upbeat and says his squad, comprising mainly of untested players at the national team level, is ready to defend their title.
Kenya won the title in 2017 by edging Zanzibar 5-4 on post-match penalties at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos and Kimanzi says the bar has already been set at the top and the current crop will have to do better.
“During such tournaments we have to give fresh faces the chance to show what they can do and thereafter promote some of them to the main team if they do well,” Kimanzi said on Saturday.
“Our target is very clear – we are the reigning champions and have to defend the title. Other than that, we have to do better than the squad that won the title last time and that only means winning the title in style by doing better in every single game.
My focus therefore really is in the tournament as a whole even as we start against Tanzania, we have to think and plan for the next matches,” he added.
Kenya are in Group B alongside Tanzania, Sudan and 2017 finalists Zanzibar and Kenneth Muguna, one of the senior players in the Harambee Stars squad, has warned his teammates against underrating their opponents.
“Tanzania has very good local players plying their trade for good teams like Simba and Azam – they form the basis of their senior national team and therefore we have to be very careful. The same applies to Sudan with the larger chunk of the team coming from big clubs like El Mereikh and Al Hilal,” the Gor Mahia captain said.
“We have very many young and inexperienced players in this squad but they are good and our job as senior players is to help them settle in and perform,” he added.
Tanzania coach Juma Mgunda, meanwhile believes Kenya are their only threat this year.
“We know Kenya very well, they are our neighbours and we have the derby rivalry which spans many decades. We will have to beat them to be assured of a good start and I guess they are also looking at beating us. It will be an entertaining game but as it stands they are our main rivals in the group,” Mgunda told Tanzanian portal Daily News.
Harambee Stars probable XI;
Timothy Odhiambo (GK), Johnstone Omurwa, Joash Onyango, David Owino, Samuel Olwande, Roy Okal, Kenneth Muguna, Musa Masika, Kevin Kimani, Clifton Miheso and Timothy Otieno.
Zanzibar v Sudan – 1:30pm
Kenya v Tanzania – 4pm
Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20 – World 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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19
Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections
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.
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.
More to follow