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Swedish teen opens six-shot lead in Kenya Open

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LARRY NGALA

By LARRY NGALA
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Sweden’s Julia Engstrom increased her lead to six shots after a brilliant round of six under 66 in the second round as the inaugural Magical Kenya Ladies Open entered its half way mark at the great Vipingo Ridge’s Baobab course on Friday.

The 18-year-old played a bogey-less three under par front nine after making birdies on the fourth, sixth and ninth. She started the back nine with two successive birdies at the 10th and 11th, then picked up two more back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th.

Engstrom was destined for even a better round until she tumbled at the 16th where she missed a putt for a par at the 16th though she was still very happy with her round.

“I played very solid. I started off well and made four birdies in the last five holes. I didn’t hole that many putts in the middle of the round, but I finished off well. I played solid and hit more greens today, so I’m happy with my round,” she said.

Asked about the condition during the day, Engstrom said: “It was hot out there today and not as much breeze. It was quite humid so I can go into the air conditioning now and be happy”.

The Swede said it will be great if she wins though was careful not to be over confident. “It would be great. Obviously it’s golf and anything can happen. It’s a tough course, we are playing it long and you need to play decent. I’m happy with my two days and I had a good weekend in Spain. I’m very happy with my first two rounds. It’s great here. It’s my first time in Kenya and I’m really enjoying it,” said Engstrom who now leads by six shots with a two rounds total of 11 under par 133 and ahead of Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald, Finland’s Ursula Wikstrom, and German Esther Henseleit who tied for second place after shooting four under par 68 and two under 70, for a total of five under par 139.

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MacDonald dropped two shots at the first nine where she only birdied the second though she played well at the back nine where she birdied the 11th, 13th, 14th, 17th and 18th for the day’s 68.

“I hit it great off the tee, gave myself a lot of chances and my putting was really solid today. It was great to get out in the first group when it was a little less humid. I’m just really happy with my performance today” said MacDonald.

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Germany’s Esther Henseleit birdied the seventh in the first nine and 15at the back nine, and parred the rest to stay in close contact with the leader.

Michelle Thomson meanwhile said: “Definitely, Kelsey’s front nine was phenomenal and I was finding it hard to keep up with her. I decided to turn it on over our back nine and I had nine putts for nine holes, so that obviously helped my scorecard”.

Wikstrom on the other hand, birdied the second, fourth, eighth and ninth, then she hit nine straight. Scotland’s Thomson and Finland’s Sanna Nuutinen tied on fourth with four under par each after firing two identical scores of four under par 68 with Thomson having made seven birdies but against three bogeys.

On her part, Nuutinen made birdies at the ninth, 10th, 13th, 15th as well as at the 17th but she dropped shot in between (16th). Joining Nuutinen and Thomson for fifth place was American Cheyenne Woods who was followed by the local enthusiasts.

Woods fired her second two under par 70 for a total of four under par 140, thanks to her excellent seven iron second shot at the par five-15th hole for an eagle three, having birdied the seventh, eighth and ninth at the front nine, against three bogeys, two of them at the back nine’s 13th and 16th.

“Same score as yesterday, but I did play very different. We played afternoon tee time, so it was a lot windier. The course played completely differently so I have to make some adjustments but, overall, my game feels really solid. I was able to get a few birdies in there and an eagle, so it felt pretty good.

“The hole if you hit a good drive, you can get down far enough to be in reach of the green in two. It played straight down wind today, so I had a seven iron into the green and I hit to about 25 feet and made the putt for eagle; so that was definitely a nice little momentum boost going into the stretch of the round” said Woods.

A total of 70 players with seven over par and better scores made the second round cut and will now chase the money and points. The best local Naomi Wafula tied in 87th with 13 over 157 after posting seven over par 79 in the second round.

Julia Engstrom (Swe) 67, 66= 133

Kelsey MacDonald (Sco) 71, 68= 139

Ursula Wikstrom (Fin) 71, 68= 139

Esther Henseleit (Ger) 69, 70= 139

Michelle Thomson (Sco) 72, 68= 140

Sanna Nuutinen (Fin) 72, 68= 140

Cheyenne Woods (USA), 70, 70= 140

Aditi Ashok (Ind) 73, 70= 143

Tvesa Malik (Ind) 72, 71= 143

Astrid Vayson de Pradenne (Fra) 69, 74= 143.

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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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