All roads lead to Kakamega Forest: Kenya Cup champs Kabras new rugby dynasty
What you need to know:
- I can state in this column that there is no other club in Kenya that commands such a big and noisy following as Kabras.
- Congratulations Kabras Sugar RFC! You and rugby are on to something in this region.
There was a time when any media previews for big games in Kenyan rugby would invariably include “all roads lead to Ngong Road.”
Those were the days when all the big and important rugby matches were held at the iconic Rugby Football Union of East of Africa grounds, or simply RFUEA.
Had Kenya Cup been played in the current format where teams participate in a round-robin competition with the top teams qualifying for play-offs and earning home ground advantage, the finals of the first four editions would most likely have been held somewhere along Ngong Road.
Ngong Road-based Impala — I still cannot believe this proud club is now playing in the lower divisions — won the country’s most prestigious club crown a record setting five times, from the inaugural edition in 1970 to 1974.
All roads would then have led to Ojijo Road, where Parklands Sports Club is located, for the next two decades of the Kenya Cup.
Nondescripts, who were then tenants of the Westlands–based sports club, won a remarkable 11 of the next 14 editions of the tournament including an unparalleled five consecutive times from 1978 to 1982.
In fact, Kenya Cup would have been synonymous with Ojijo Road considering that Nondescripts are the most successful club in this competition with a record 17 titles. Wow!
They were relegated to the Championship for the first time in their history last season, but, trust their pedigree, they bounced right back and will be in top flight rugby next season.
Anyway, all roads continued to lead to Ngong Road with Impala and Kenya Harlequin exchanging the spoils before KCB stormed the party at the beginning of this millennium to become the preeminent rugby force of the league.
Hotbed of the game
With eight titles under KCB’s belt it is little wonder Thika Road has in the recent past been considered the hotbed of the game.
But a new dynasty is surely emerging.
Relative newcomers Kabras Sugar beat KCB 19-9 in the final of the Kenya Cup last Saturday to retain the title at a sold-out Kakamega ASK Showground.
It was a tightly contested duel as is wont to be for a championship match. Not a classic by a mile, but a clash of nerves, a physical attrition contest between two evenly matched giants not ready to give away even an inch.
Something stupid had to happen.
A collapsed maul blamed on KCB led to a penalty try that gave Kabras a seven-point lead midway through the second half after the teams had initially traded penalties to stay dead even at 9-9.
Showing more urgency after that, the bankers camped at the Kabras half in search of an appropriate reply but for some inexplicable reason did not pick the option of kicking for goal several penalties they won.
Earning three points would have brought the score to 16-12. KCB would have restarted play, either kicking deep or short and contesting the drop kick, but either way, they would almost certainly have regained possession to build another platform for attack. Who knows what would have happened.
My honest assessment is Kabras were the deserved, by the barest of margins, champions.
This was Kabras’s third Kenyan title, a remarkable achievement considering the club only started in 2013.
They won their first Kenya Cup crown in 2016.
I have read about the rugby development that has been initiated by the club with the help of their sponsors West Kenya Sugar Company Limited, the manufacturer of the Kabras brand.
Kabras have been nurturing talent at the grassroots, in schools, offering university scholarships to talented players and even employment in professional positions within the Rai Group of Companies.
None other than Rai Group of Companies chairman Jaswant Singh Rai said they were using sports to enhance the socio-economic development of the local people.
You needed to be in Kakamega on the day of the final to appreciate the love the exuberant local crowd had for Kabras rugby.
Kakamega Governor Fernandez Barasa, resplendent in the Kabras RFC replica jersey, was the chief guest, a partisan one at that. And why not?
Kakamega was indeed loudly and unashamedly yellow, the yellow of Kabras Sugar rugby, three-time Kenyan champions, and counting.
I can state in this column that there is no other club in Kenya that commands such a big and noisy following as Kabras.
Congratulations Kabras Sugar RFC! You and rugby are on to something in this region.
All roads lead to Kakamega Forest, you feel.