St Mary’s Yala remain Kakamega School’s biggest challenger as the national champions remains optimistic of retaining the rugby 15s title when the Brookside Dairy-sponsored Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSSSA) Term One games kick off tomorrow at Kangaru Boys in Embu County.
Speaking before the team departed for Embu yesterday, Kakamega coach Amos Wamanga was not a worried man despite the Barbarians being drawn against heavyweights St Mary’s Yala, Alliance High and Miathene in Group A.
“We have played against most of the teams in the championship before and we recognise their strength. It will be a competitive tournament but when the dust settles the last day we have to emerge the champions,” Wamanga exuded confidence.
Wamanga will rely heavily on the fitness of his top notch players led by skipper Kevin Imani, talisman Timothy Omela and conversion specialist Tony Owino among others. Miathene stands out as Group A rookies while Yala and Alliance hopes to post a better performance than last year at Nairobi School.
In Pool B, Galana and Menengai will be making their 15s national debut participation while regulars Kangaru and Upper Hill will be out hunting for a maiden title in the category. Nakuru-based Menengai are also the current rugby Sevens champions, a title they won on their maiden appearance at the nationals last year and it remains to be seen if they can pull a similar surprise in rugby 15s this year.
Conspicuously absent in Embu will be East Africa champions Laiser Hill Academy who failed to go past the regionals after succumbing in the hands of Menengai and have since relinquished the title.
In basketball, girls’ national champions Kaya Tiwi are in pool A alongside Moi Girls Eldoret, Barchando and Butere while Pool B enlists Buruburu, Loreto, Moi Girls Mandera and Kirigara. In boys’ basketball, champions Laiser are drawn against new Nairobi basketball sensation Dagoretti, Alliance and Sigalame.
For the first time in over a decade, former national champions who have been Laiser Hill’s arch rivals Upper Hill will miss the nationals. Multiple handball boys’ champions St Luke’s Kimilili will be making a return after controversially missing out last year’s nationals with a new champion set be crowned after 2017 winners Mukumu Boys were eliminated by the former. Kimilili will face off Lenana, New White House and Nduluni as last year’s losing finalist Kanyawanga take on Mangu, Saniak, Sabunley in group A.
East Africa girls’ hockey champions Sinyolo Girls will also miss out the nationals despite qualifying since the team is said to be in France taking part in a tournament. Winners and first runners in EACH discipline will qualify for the East Africa Games.