Battle of the big cats: Simbas and Leopards collide in Currie Cup tie

Kenya Simbas' Ephraim Oduor (left) and Kaman Gassam of Senegal Droit during their Rugby Africa Cup match at Nyayo Stadium last year. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Kenya will make history today when they host South African top tier rugby side Leopards in the first Currie Cup match to be played outside South Africa at the RFUEA Ground, Nairobi.

Kabras Sugar star Dan Sikuta will captain Kenya Simbas against Leopards as they chase for their second Currie Cup win in front of their home fans.

The Simbas have lost five of the six matches played during their tour in South Africa and they will be seeking to redeem themselves and move up on the standings.

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 in a 45-33 and SWD Eagles 24-7.

Despite registering unconvincing performances in South Africa, Simbas head coach Paul Odera said they are confident of registering an improvement today.

“We’ve made progress in conditioning and mental strength. The set piece has been an area we’ve struggled so we are a lot more consistent. In our scrums we were at 60% when we got to South Africa but now we are at 90 going to 100%,” said Odera.

The tactician added that the team has improved on their set-play tactics and ball movement, an area that has been a problem in the past.

“The line-outs is an area we need to get to 80%-90% because South Africans teams are probably the best in the world in the line-outs; that’s been an area we’ve shown some progress. Once we get our set-piece right as our foundation it would allow us to play the game into our style,” said Odera.

“Elite performance takes time, it’s not a magic word that happens overnight. I’m glad to hear the chairman say he wants to stay there for two to three years. Whether am the head coach or not if we keep going to South Africa and keep experiencing this level of rugby I think we’ll be very far soon.”

KCB’s Davis Change and Emmanuel Silungi will make a return to the squad alongside Samuel Asati, Dominic Coulson and Darwin Mukidza.

Odera said it has been a massive journey for his players since April and hopes Currie Cup experience will improve their performance in the Rugby World Cup qualifiers.

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