Lionesses shift focus to 2021 World Cup qualifiers

Kenya’s Camilyne Oyuayo charges past Beatrice Atim of Uganda in a past Elgon Cup encounter at RFUEA, Nairobi. [File]

Having made light work of Uganda in the two-legged Elgon Cup fixture, national women’s rugby 15s team, Lionesses are now looking forward to the 2021 World Cup qualifiers slated for Johannesburg, South Africa next month.

The Felix Oloo-coached Lionesses, who returned to action this year after a lengthy spell of inactivity, thrashed Uganda’s Lady Cranes 35-5 in Kampala over the weekend to clinch the Elgon Cup with a 79-18  aggregate win.

Over the two legs, Lionesses captain Philadelphia Olando scored five tries, making her the stand-out performer in the encounter.

It was double delight for Kenya as Lionesses’ male counterparts, Simbas, overturned a three-point deficit to win the Elgon Cup for a fourth successive year after beating the Ugandans 16-5, 29-21 on aggregate.

While some might be vindicated to feel that perhaps the Ugandan ladies were a mismatch for Kenya, it is evident that the Lionesses will not be pushovers in their quest to write history by booking a World Cup slot for the first time.

Prior to their weekend fixture in Kampala, coach Oloo, in an interview with Standard Sports, expressed optimism in his team’s abilities, saying they have what it takes to qualify for the global showpiece.

“The girls are ready and there are just a few areas we need to work on.

“Our backline has been outstanding and what remains is improving on our forwards,” Oloo said.

Interestingly, Lionesses will renew their rivalry with Uganda in the World Cup qualifiers and it is definitely every Kenyan’s wish that the Elgon Cup result is a precursor of what will unfold in the South African city when these two East Africa teams meet.

In what will be the inaugural African women’s 15s World Cup qualifying event, Lionesses will also come up against Madagascar and hosts South Africa.

On paper, the South Africans are the only real threat for Oloo’s charges due to their pedigree at the big stage and of course, they enjoy invaluable home advantage.

The champions of the four-team showpiece, which will be played in a round-robin format, will seal automatic qualification to the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand while the silver medallists will face the runner-up from South America next year.

Winner of this playoff will then head to a repechage tournament where the final ticket to the World Cup will be up for grabs.

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