It’s win or bust for Simbas (Kenya 15s) head coach Ian Snook as his charges take on Rugby Africa Gold Cup champions Namibia in Windhoek on Saturday with a 2019 Rugby World Cup place at stake.
Snook was brought in by Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) with the specific brief to deliver Simbas to the promised land and the moment is here.
It will not be smooth sailing for Kenya, however, as they trail Namibia by three points and must win to get the four points at stake to progress while the Welwitchias only need a draw.
Despite all these, Snook is putting on a brave face. “I expect the players to be ready for an 80-minute effort. The boys will have to play their best game ever in the campaign and I am confident we can pick a win in Namibia,” said the New Zealand tactician.
Both sides are unbeaten, Namibia leading the log with 20 points courtesy of four bonus points while Kenya are second with 17.
Simbas thrashed Tunisia 64-0 last week but while the scoreline might be flattering, the match was not without errors, something that is not lost on Snook.
“It has been difficult with no warm up games. The Tunisia match last weekend provided a bit of everything the players can learn from,” he said of his team who had several ball-handling errors at Nairobi’s RFUEA grounds last Saturday.
Simbas skipper Davis Chenge says the squad is hungry for a maiden World Cup ticket besides ending a three-year losing streak to the Welwitchias who are on a 17-match winning run.
“We are aware this is a do or die match. We are up against a side that has won all their matches with bonus points but we are confident we can do it,” said Chenge.
Simbas’ last encounter with Namibia saw the Kenyans lose 45-7 at the same venue last year. They had also lost 46-13 and 56-21 in 2016 and 2015 respectively while their last victory in Windhoek was a 29-22 triumph in 2014 under South African coach Jerome Paarwater.
That win was during the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers, singling renewed optimism that Kenya was on the road to the global showpiece but their bubble was burst following an unexpected 27-10 loss to Zimbabwe in the deciding tie when needed just a draw to sail through. They will be hoping lighting dies not strike twice.
Namibia have named a strong 23 man squad skippered by 27-year-old centre Johan Deysel who plays Super rugby side Sharks while the team also comprises players from South African and English sides, meaning Simbas work is cut out. -ALEX NJUE