Rugby: Lionesses geared up for World Cup qualifiers

Lionesses players Janet Okello (left) and Christabel Tata. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

It’s all systems go for the national women’s rugby 15s team, Lionesses, ahead of their participation at the 2021 World Cup qualifiers scheduled to kick off on Friday at the Bosman Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In the qualifiers, Lionesses, who leave the country tomorrow, face three nations in the tournament; hosts South Africa, Uganda and Madagascar.

A first-place finish in the round-robin tournament will guarantee the Kenyan ladies an automatic ticket to the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

The silver medallists in the event, Africa’s inaugural Women’s World Cup qualifier, will play a team from South America next year with the winner of the one-off playoff will proceed to a repechage tournament where a final ticket to New Zealand will be on the line.

The Lionesses, who are coached by Felix Oloo, face Madagascar on Friday ahead of their match against Uganda next Tuesday.

Their final fixture pits them against the much-fancied South Africa next Saturday.

Oloo said they have polished the grey areas they identified during the two-legged Elgon Cup against Uganda, which served as a warm-up for the qualifiers.

The Lionesses defeated the Ugandans on aggregate, winning 44-13 in Kisumu and 35-5 at Kyadondo Rugby Club in Kampala on July 13.

“We’ve polished rusty areas identified during the Elgon Cup and we have ensured each player understands their role in the team. We are confident the selected team will make Kenya proud,” said Oloo.

The team has been boosted by the return of Homeboyz RFC centre Sheila Chajira from an ankle injury he picked up in April during the Hong Kong Sevens.

“I am very excited to be actively back in the set up. I have been attending the training sessions as I did my rehab and strongly believe we shall deliver,” Chajira said.

The Nakuru-based coach Oloo has also included Nakuru RFC half back Vivian Akumu and Mwamba RFC back row Naomi Amuguni with the duo set for their maiden appearance in national colours.

Oloo said the team spirit is good and morale was high. “We have had adequate preparations after a good performance in the Elgon Cup, which has improved our rankings,” said Oloo.