What you need to know:
- Simbas captain Dan Sikuta said they have a good opportunity of qualifying, having started their preparations in November playing in the Stellenbosch Rugby Challenge in South Africa.
- They returned to South Africa this year for the Currie Cup First Division.
Kenya Simbas were on the cusp of qualifying for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, in July 2014.
Beyond expectations, Kenya Simbas shocked giants Namibia 29-22 in their opening duel of the Africa Cup cum World Cup Africa qualifier on June 28 of 2014 at Mahamasina Municipal Stadium in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Riding high, the Simbas would again roar past the home team Madagascar 34-0 on July 2 and only needed a point from their last match against Zimbabwe on July 6 to write history and qualify for their first World Cup.
Pundits had put their bets on the Simbas to beat Zimbabwe to qualify by virtue of having shocked defending champions Namibia and stubborn Madagascar.
The Simbas, who were handled then by South African coach Jerome Paarwater, could even afford to lose as long as they earned a bonus point.
But the gods of rugby deserted them at the Indian Ocean island country.
Simbas ended losing 28-10 to the Sables to blow away the golden opportunity of securing a momentous world ticket.
They ended up finishing third after tying on 10 points with Namibia and Zimbabwe, but with an inferior points scored difference.
Namibia would make a return to the World Cup as Zimbabwe got a final opportunity to qualify at the Repechage.
Tears flowed freely on that fateful day as the Simbas rued their missed chance.
Eight years later, Kenya Simbas, buoyed by an intense tour of South Africa, won’t take any chances having learnt a big lesson from the 2015 qualifier.
Simbas, who received travelling kit from the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K), flew out of Nairobi early Wednesday morning for the final round of the 2023 Rugby World Cup Africa qualifiers starting Friday in France.
The Currie Cup-hardened Kenya Simbas launch their quest against familiar foes Uganda on Saturday at Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence with the winner setting up a semi-final clash with either Senegal or Algeria, who will play later in the day at the same venue.
At the other side of the draw Namibia face Burkina Faso on Friday at Stade Delort, Marseille with the winner securing a date with either Zimbabwe or Cote d’Ivoire, who will meet on the same day.
The three serving team members from the famous 2014 squad are lock Davis Chenge, flanker Martin Owila and centre Collins Injera.
“Our undoing in 2014 was that everybody was already fantasising playing at Twickenham after walloping Namibia,” said Injera.
“We lost concentration against Zimbabwe whom everybody thought we would easily beat, but we failed. It was painful for everyone.”
Injera noted that what they learnt in 2014 is not to count their chicks before they hatch.
“We didn’t know what to do then but we have discussed such scenarios and what we need to do,’ said Injera.
“We are focused on the Uganda game. We are not looking any further than that for now. We want to get a good win against Uganda, then build on the momentum,” “said Injera.
Simbas coach Paul Odera said it will be foolish to dismiss Uganda Cranes.
“We must be level headed, have a clear game’s approach by respecting our opponents,” said Odera.
He said that just like Kenya, Zimbabwe also participated in Currie Cup, while Namibia have been in Europe, playing friendly matches against European sides.
Simbas captain Dan Sikuta said they have a good opportunity of qualifying, having started their preparations in November playing in the Stellenbosch Rugby Challenge in South Africa.
They returned to South Africa this year for the Currie Cup First Division.