With the Rugby World Cup qualifiers next year, Kenya Simbas are out to explore their depth when they take on Hong Kong Sunday afternoon at the RFUEA grounds in the first of their two-match series.
Simbas deputy coach Dominique Habimana indicated that even though they have trained with a wider squad, this is the opportunity for new players.
Kabras Sugar lock George Nyambua, who will skipper the Simbas in the first match, said despite having six debutants, he does not underrate the visitors, whom they beat last year.
“We want to give the players who have been coming off the bench, getting one Test here and there, an opportunity to play,” said Habimana.
Nyambua said though they are perceived as a second-string side, Simbas are prepared, having trained together for a long time and coming off the Africa Rugby Cup and Germany Test outing.
“Hong Kong will come out hard because we beat them last year but we are prepared and won’t underrate them,” said Nyambua on the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) website. “I don’t see much change in the squad because we have been training for a while as a team and so we knew each other; it’s just a matter of synergy.”
It’s almost a year since the Dragons from Hong Kong met Kenya in a Test match in Nairobi, where the hosts prevailed. Kenya ‘A’ rolled over the visitors 24-18 in the first match before the Simbas won 34-10 in the second tie.
James Kubasu, Philip Ikambili, Emmanuel Mavala, Elkeans Musonye, Brad Owako and Alex Olaba will make their full international debuts in Sunday’s match. The six players were named to the match day squad that saw 17 changes to the team that played Zimbabwe and Namibia a fortnight ago. A seventh player, Benjamin Marshall, could make his debut.
The outing will also see the return of Oliver Mang’eni, Biko Adema, Ronnie Mwenesi and Vincent Mose.
OPTED FOR EXPERIENCE
Kenya finished second behind Namibia in the Rugby Africa Cup that also featured Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Senegal.
Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones has opted for experience, fielding only three debutantes. Hong Kong Cricket Club scrumhalf Liam Slatem and Tigers duo of winger Sam Purvis and fullback Liam Gallaher are set for first caps, against Kenya.
Four other debutants that are on the bench include Tigers prop Dan Barlow, Valley hooker Dayne Jans and U20s graduates back James Christie and flanker Pierce Mackinlay-West.
Even though prop Alex Ng Wai-shing will start on the bench, he might make his 50th appearance for the Dragons alongside Liam Owens and Robbie Keith as the other capped players starting on the bench. Owens earned his first cap last year in Kenya while Keith was capped earlier this year in the Asia Rugby championship campaign.