Simbas (Kenya 15s) will hope to get their 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifying campaign back on track when they take on Hong Kong in the second match of the repechage in France at 3pm Saturday.
Coach Ian Snook has made six changes to the squad that kicked off the Repechage with a 19-65 loss to Canada last Sunday.
Former captain Wilson K’Opondo, Elkeans Musonye, Felix Ayange, Nelson Oyoo are in the starting line-up as Simbas brace for Hong Kong with Ephraim Oduor and Dalmus Chituyi starting on the bench.
Captain Davis Chenge sits this match out owing to a shoulder injury picked against Canada but the technical bench expects to have him back in time for the clash against Germany on Friday.
Mohammed Omollo, Moses Amusala, Oliver Mang’eni and Darwin Mukidza have been rested this weekend
Kenya received a rude awakening last Sunday and now have a must-win clash against Hong Kong at Stade Delort in Marseille if they have to avoid returning home early.
Unlike Canada who were an unknown quantity to Kenya in 15s, Hong Kong are a team the Simbas know too well. The two sides first played against each other in 2016 at the Impala Grounds on August 23 and 27 with Kenya winning both matches 24-18 and 24-17 respectively.
They met again one year later at the RFUEA Grounds, Hong Kong then seemed to have done their homework as the first match ended in a 19-19 draw while the second one saw the Asians fly back home with a 43-34 win.
In November 2017, the Simbas traveled to Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Cup of Nations and yet again fell to the hosts 40-30.
Going by this information, coach Ian Snook cannot afford another poor performance on Saturday. “They are a good all-round team who are well organised and have several attacking threats so we will need to step up a few levels in all aspects if we are to beat them,” said Snook in reference to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong also lost their opening match to Germany and like Kenya, they are a step behind from earning the 20th slot to the 2019 World Cup.
Canada and Germany have an edge and as they face each other this weekend both Kenya and Hong Kong will be hoping for favourable results.
Simbas only hope for a World Cup ticket hinge on them beating both Hong Kong and Germany convincingly while hope Canada lose without a bonus point.
However, Simbas must correct the mistakes that cost them against the Canadians if they have to bring down the Asians. “The set pieces went okay after the initial hiccup at the scrum. We had some good attacking opportunities but were a bit rusty and made too many mistakes. The big work has been maintaining our phase attack and defensive patterns,” added Snook. -ALEX NJUE