What you need to know:
- Just a fortnight ago, Mwamba were teetering in relegation zone after a torrid start to this 2023/24 Kenya Cup season
- 'Kulabu' are now placed ninth in the 12-team Kenya Cup league with nine points, two places above the relegation zone
- Mwamba come up against Strathmore University Leos in one of the eight round of Kenya Cup matches on Saturday
The 1983 Kenya Cup champions Mwamba Rugby Club have literally risen from the dead.
Just a fortnight ago, Mwamba were teetering in relegation zone after a torrid start to this 2023/24 Kenya Cup season.
Fondly known as Kulabu, Mwamba lost their five consecutive opening matches including the 87-0 and 67-0 demolition by champions Kabras Sugar and Menengai Oilers respectively.
They also lost to Kenyatta University Blak Blad 24-16, Kenya Harlequin 40-10 and KCB 36-5 before they started their winning streak by beating Nondescript 15- 7 and Catholic Monks 32-16.
'Kulabu' are now placed ninth in the 12-team Kenya Cup league with nine points, two places above the relegation zone.
But will the oldest indigenous rugby club that has produced some of the best rugby players in the country withstand the heat and avoid the big axe at the end of the season?
That is the big question as Mwamba come up against Strathmore University Leos in one of the eight round of Kenya Cup matches on Saturday.
Kulabu and the Leos clash is basically a student confronting his teacher where Kenya Sevens head Coach Kelvin “Bling” Wambua faces his deputy at Shujaa, Louis Kisia.
While Wambua handles Mwamba and Kisia is in charge at the Leos, it’s also good to note that Kisia served as Wambua’s deputy at Mwamba before he joined the varsity side.
Mwamba Rugby Club chairman Jason Braganza attributed their poor run in the season’s opening matches to various factors including transition after departure and retirement of their key players and lack of sponsorship, resources and training ground.
Not only has there been transition in the playing unit but also in their technical bench where they have brought in new faces like Joseph Mbabu and Edwin “Pablo” Machanje.
Mwamba went looking for a new home after they were told to vacate Nairobi Railway Club in September 2020 so as to create room for the construction of the new bus park and expansion of the Expressway.
The exit of KIsia, Machanje, Humphrey Kayange, Lavin Asego, Billy Odhiambo and Collins Injera has left a huge vacuum that Mwamba have struggled to fill with Machanje and Injera now being absorbed into the technical bench.
“Former captain Salaton Muturi is also on the path to coaching. We have a lot of inexperienced players and it will take time for them to adjust and reach the Kenya Cup standards,” said Braganza, terming lack of sponsorship as chronic since nothing can move without funds with Mwamba being a community club.
“It has been tough to keep players and the club running so as to ensure that we remain competitive,” said Braganza, noting that the confidence in the playing unit is growing as they get to understand the technical bench’s plan.
That has been manifested in the last two matches where they won, something that has given them some breathing space and inspiration.
“We have managed to source out for small sponsorship where former players have been able to help but not the context that can match the big wigs like Kabras Sugar and KCB,” explained Braganza, stating that resources will remain a key instrument to success and if the club is to remain competitive.
Braganza implored on the corporates to come to the rescue of the club as well as look at rugby as an important sport and investment.
“Most of these community clubs like Mwamba, Quins, Homeboyz and Impala flourished when they had good sponsorship, which translated to quality players,“ Braganza noted. “That is when Kenya Simbas almost qualified for the 2014 Rugby World Cup and Kenya Sevens won the 2016 Singapore Sevens.”
Braganza elaborated that losing Railway Club ground left Mwamba homeless, something that has impacted on the team performance in the last two years.
Lack of training ground was a significant factor that hampered Mwamba’s operations especially last year but they have since struck a good partnership with the Public Service Club management in Nairobi for the use of their facilities.
“We have been able to have a stable training ground and a place where players can call home,” explained Braganza, who is excited that they have been able to field a side at the Eric Shirley Shield league after a long time.
Mwamba last featured in Kenya Cup semi-finals during the 2018/19 season where they lost to Kabras Sugar 23-11 before the sugarmen went down to KCB 23-15 in the final.
After their date with Strathmore Leos, Mwamba, who last won Kenya Cup in 1983, will have their next three matches to wrap up the regular session at home.
They will face off with Kisumu on February 24, take on Homeboyz on March 2 before wrapping up against Nakuru on March 9 where they hope to finish in top six and qualify for the play-offs.
Last season, Mwamba beat Strathmore and Nakuru 27-20 and 12-6 respectively but fell to Homeboyz 19-13.
Kenya Cup fixtures
Kenya Harlequin v Kabras Sugar (RFUEA) 3pm
Kisumu v KCB (Kisumu Poly) 4pm
Menengai Oilers v Nondescript (Nakuru Showground) 3pm
Blak Blad v Catholic Monks (Kenyatta University) 3pm
Nakuru v Homeboyz (Nakuru Athletic Club) 3pm
Strathmore Leos v Mwamba (Strathmore Sports Ground) 3pm