Why Simbas need to hunt down elusive World Cup slot or starve

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. [Rugby Africa]

Kenya will have to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup the hard way after they blew away their direct chance to get to France on Sunday night.

The Simbas suffered a heartbreaking 36-0 loss to Namibia in the last match of the Rugby Africa Cup finals at Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence, in France.

The defeat slowed Kenya’s quest to grace the Rugby World Cup for the first time.

Namibia will join the 16 teams that have already qualified for the World Cup

Wian Conradie scored a hat-trick of tries as captain Johan Daysel scored Namibia's other try to propel the South African nation to their seventh consecutive Rugby World Cup appearance.

Namibia in the process booked their place in Group A of next year’s Rugby World Cup in France, alongside hosts, New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay.

The good news for Simbas, however, is that they still have one more shot at qualifying for a World Cup tournament for the first time, as they drop to the four-team Repechage tournament set to be held in November.

The Repechage is the final stage of the qualification process where four teams playing in a round-robin format, compete for the final World Cup spot.

Simbas will now have to face off against either Chile or United States, Tonga and Portugal.

The winner of the Repechage will complete the eight additional qualifiers and will be in Group C in the 20-team World Cup against Wales, Australia, Fiji and Georgia.

Simbas' journey to World Cup received a huge boost after they participated in the invitational Currie Cup in South Africa.

The Paul Odera led side won three matches out of eight as they improved both defensively and skill wise.

Kenya lost their opening three matches against Falcons 51-14 on April 9 before going down 22-21 to Zimbabwe on April 23 and Griffons 66-33 on April 30.

A 35-12 win over Border Bulldogs on May 7 sprung the team to life before being given a reality check in a back-to-back defeat to Boland Cavaliers (45-33) and SWD Eagles (24-7).

They bounced back to see off North West Leopards 51-35 before ending the tour with another 41-34 win over Eastern Province Leopards.

Clouded by uncertainty and financial challenges, Simbas finally travelled to France where they showed improvement with a statement 42-7 win over neighbouring rivals Uganda in the quarterfinals played a week ago.

Simbas later showed resilience with a tight 36-33 win over Algeria in the semifinals before being given a reality check by champions Namibia.

Kenya will now shift their focus to the Repechage qualifiers.