Test rugby is set to go to the counties in 2018 following a decision by the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) board to spread the international matches across the country.
This move will bring international 15-a-side rugby closer to the grassroots and increase the game’s popularity and visibility.
This move is consistent with the practice in major rugby playing nations like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia who rotate test matches across various venues.
Some of the regions earmarked as potential venues include Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Machakos and Kakamega.
Each of these regions have event management experience from years of hosting high profile fixtures such as the Rugby Super Series and the National Sevens Circuit.
KRU will also support the regions in the organization/logistics of the matches as the requirements of test rugby are significantly higher than domestic competitions.
The KRU has started the process of evaluating each venue under criteria such as playing facility, transport, accommodation to ensure basic infrastructure is met to host games of such magnitude and will soon meet the local authorities and affiliates to discuss the venture.
Commenting on the decision, KRU Secretary Oduor Gangla said “Fifteen a side international rugby is growing rapidly with Nairobi hosting six test matches this year, all of which have been very well attended. The timing is right to extend this unique product across the country and grow the test match experience and culture across the country. A number of KRU affiliates have already expressed strong interest in hosting such matches and we look forward to engaging with them from September 2017 to actualize this plan.”
Kenya Simbas last Saturday beat Senegal 45-25 in their third Africa Gold Cup match at the RFUEA grounds. The team is this weekend scheduled Zimbabwe away in Harare in their fourth match,
This plan is consistent with the broad mandate of KRU to grow and develop the game of rugby union. Rugby fans across the country will have unique opportunities to experience test match rugby. In addition, KRU will look to introduce new commercial partners into the game especially regional companies and the county governments who have significant budgets for sporting activities. With the large and growing following of test matches, we expect a huge multiplier effect for businesses in the region as they will host the rugby fraternity to local opportunities”
“For this venture to be successful, the support of our affiliates across the country is essential and this will deepen our working relationship. Part of the returns of these events will be earmarked towards legacy rugby development programs that will contribute to the growth and development of the game and support initiatives of the affiliates in the regions,” he concluded.