Chipu keen to defend Barthes Cup title as Simbas face Zambia in must win match
Kenya U20 national men’s team, Chipu, will be seeking for the ultimate honour of being declared two-time Barthes U20 trophy champions when they engage Madagascar at Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday from 1.30 pm.
Undoubtedly, the match presents the Kenyans with a test of nerves and skills with coach Curtis Olago wracking his brains on how best the locals shall be able defend the title. In the previous edition held at the KCB Sports Club in 2019, Kenya Chipu dethroned champions Namibia to break a three-time cup finals losing streak.
Namibia were a real threat then but now that they have been ruled out of this year’s edition owing to Covid-19 challenges in the country, it could be a blessing in disguise for Kenya. Kenya has suffered a setback as industrious Homeboyz half back Amon Wamalwa has been replaced following a knock he picked in the opener against Senegal on July 3in which the hosts scored 50 points whilst conceding just a three pointer off a penalty.
“There were three injury concerns but two of them recovered. Andrew (Wangila) and Celestine (Mboi) have both been cleared to take part in the captains run on Saturday but halfback Amon Wamalwa will miss out as he has failed to pass the fitness test,” Chipu team manager Peter Mutahi told Wikendi Sports.
Asked what he thinks are the team’s chances, Mutahi said the boys have understood their roles in delivering their second title that will enable the team grab the sole ticket to participate in the Junior World Rugby trophy. “The spirits amongst players are high and that is quite encouraging if you ask me.. I believe the boys have grasped the philosophies of trainers and will hopefully deliver the cup to make the rugby enthusiasts in the country happy,” added Mutahi.
Kenya is the only team that has yet to concede a try as their opener match against Senegal kicked off slowly courtesy of a 12-3 half time lead before they wrapped up the proceedings with a convincing 50-3 win. Despite the big win, Olago said there are few departments which need improvement including line outs and execution.
“Of course, we have to do a bit of polishing and I must say the line-outs were disappointing. I’m glad that the players are willing to learn and for now, we hope to pick up from where we left against Senegal and convincingly beat Madagascar in as much as we respect them as a fast rising rugby side,” Olago said.
Meanwhile, Kenya Simbas national rugby 15 aside team will be having a chance for qualifying for the 2023 France Rugby World Cup (RWC) knock outs stage, a slot that visiting Zambia is in Nairobi to also contest for, after both team’s suffered defeats to Senegal in their Rugby Africa cup-cum the RWC qualifiers openers played at the Nyayo stadium.
With only top two teams set to proceed to the knockouts from each of the four pools, Senegal was first to confirm their place on Wednesday after winning their second match while Kenya and Zambia will this Sunday battle for the last ticket and Simbas boss Paul Odera will be expecting nothing short of a win to keep their dream of playing the world cup alive.
“Losing to Senegal leaves us with only one option and that is to beat Zambia on Sunady. Last weekend we gave Senegal a chance to play comfortably, we failed when it came to giving them pressure, so against Zambia, things will be a lot different because it’s our final chance to qualify for the knockouts,” Odera told Wikendi Sport.
Debutant Jone Kubu scored 14 points for Kenya off three penalties, a drop goal and a conversion in the opener before he suffered a knock but he recovered on time and will be available for the Zambia match this sunday afternoon