Kenya face Madagascar in opening match of 2021 World Cup qualifiers
Kenya Lionesses begin their hunt for a ticket to the New Zealand 2021 Rugby 15s World Cup with a match against Madagascar at the Bosman Stadium in South Africa at 2pm today.
Head coach Felix Oloo has termed the match a final in the four-team competition that will also see hosts South Africa face Uganda two hours later.
“Madagascar is a final just like the other fixtures against Uganda and South Africa. We respect our opponents and expect strong opposition in all three matches. We will treat all of them with the seriousness they deserve,” said Oloo.
The maiden continental 15s competition will see Africa Sevens champions Lionesses attempt to secure the rights to the New Zealand 2021 tournament but they will have to win against all three opponents with meetings against Uganda and South Africa slated for August 13 and 17 respectively.
Kenya are favourites in the opening clash. Experience and form puts Lionesses in good stead after July 14’s Elgon Cup win after crushing Uganda with an aggregate 79-19 victory played on home and away basis.
Lionesses’ meetings with Madagascar have been in the sevens competition where Kenya last met them in May 2018 in the Africa Sevens competition, bagging a win. Kenya boast of an experienced line up, bolstered by sevens players who won the 2018 Africa Women’s Sevens championship.
Impact of a tough 2019 Kenya Rugby Union Women’s League will also be felt at the Bosman Stadium thanks to a successful 10-a-side Women’s Circuit that acted as a build-up for the Elgon Cup and the World Cup qualifiers.
Lionesses reached an all-time high world rugby rankings of 28 after defending their Elgon Cup crown.
South Africa top the African rankings charts at position 11 followed by Kenya (28) and Uganda (44) while Madagascar are not ranked.
The engine of Lionesses include skipper and scoring machine Philadelphia Olando, who had five tries in Elgon Cup, returning centre Sheila Chajira, Celestine Masinde and winger Janet Okello.
The winner of the competition will automatically qualify for the World Cup while runners up have their chance in the dreaded global repechage.