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Decisive moment as Kenya battle Namibia for World Cup ticket

Kenya Simbas players celebrate after scoring a try against Uganda during their 2022 Rugby Africa Cup quarterfinals match at Stade Delort, Marseille in France on July 2 2022. [Rugby Africa]

Kenya Simbas will renew their rivalry with Namibia in the 2022 Rugby Africa Gold Cup final at Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence, France today at 10pm with a spot in next year’s World Cup at stake.

The Africa Cup is doubling up as the 2023 Rugby World Cup Africa qualifier and head coach Paul Odera insists his side do not fear Namibia.

The Simbas came through a nervous final 10 minutes, and a serious examination on set-pieces, to beat Algeria 36-33 in their semi-final on Wednesday and book their place in the showpiece match in Aix-en-Provence.

Namibia stand between Kenya and a first ever Rugby World Cup appearance, having beaten Zimbabwe 34-19 in their last-four encounter at Stade Maurice David.

Whoever wins today’s Rugby Africa Cup final will secure their spot in Pool A at RWC 2023, alongside hosts France, New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay.

The loser, meanwhile, will compete in the Final Qualification Tournament in November.

Kenya has not beaten Namibia since 2014 and suffered their fifth successive defeat to the Welwitschias in South Africa last November, losing 60-24.

However, the Simbas led that match in Stellenbosch 24-19 at half-time, and Odera believes they will provide sterner opposition this weekend having warmed up for the Rugby Africa Cup by competing in the Currie Cup.

Speaking to World Rugby, the tactician said they will do everything in their power to get the direct ticket and avoid the qualification tournament.

“A number of factors give me confidence. One is how far we have come to reach where we are today.

“We are a lot fitter and a lot better conditioned to deal with an outfit like Namibia. So, I think we’re in with a good chance.

“We don’t fear Namibia, we respect them massively. I mean, they are a team to be respected on the African continent (but) fear, no.

“And then you’ve got players who have been there when they’ve put Namibia under pressure and seen how vulnerable Namibia can be when certain areas in their game are exploited.

“So, if you put all those factors together, it does give me some confidence that I think we may be able to get a positive result at the end of 80 minutes,” Odera said.

Having endured a difficult evening up front in the semi-final against Algeria, Odera knows Kenya must improve in that area if they are going to beat Namibia and their powerful pack.

“Namibia put a lot of pressure on Zimbabwe there,” he added, “but they’ve done that for years and that’s been a big strength of Namibian rugby.

“So, we’re under no illusions of the task waiting for us in the set piece.”

There is good news for Kenya in the backs, though, with Odera hopeful that sevens stars Collins Injera and Vincent Onyala – who scored two tries against Namibia last November – will be fit for the final.

And, it seems that the squad have allowed their thoughts to drift to qualification and returning to the south of France to play the hosts and New Zealand next year.