Bulls and Kisumu seek longer stay at Kenya Cup
Newly promoted Kenya Cup sides Western Bulls and Kisumu RFC will be looking to uphold their top tier status when the 2019-20 Kenya Rugby Union 15s season kicks off.
The Kakamega-based Bulls are set to return to the country’s elite 15s league having spent two seasons in the KRU Championship while Kisumu make a comeback after suffering relegation during the 2013-14 campaign.
Bulls came agonizingly close to earning promotion last year as their dreams were shattered at the last hurdle following defeat to Mean Machine and according to head coach Bram Shikanda, the painful loss to the University of Nairobi outfit served as an eye-opener, enabling them to rectify their undoings.
“Everyone in the team was motivated and we didn’t want to fall short again this time. I ensured that we had a large squad since I knew player rotation would be key in dealing with the fatigue and ensuring there was adequate competition for places,” Shikanda told Standard Sport.
Shikanda’s charges finished third during the regular season with 55 points and after their playoff opponents Mombasa RFC failed to honour the fixture, they received a walkover to the semi-finals where they upset USIU 22-16 to seal Kenya Cup promotion.
“It is evident that the Kenya Cup is a tougher league compared to the KRU Championship and our first target will be avoiding relegation. We shall be looking to make some quality signings once the transfer window opens,” said Shikanda.
Shikanda’s sentiments have been echoed by his Kisumu counterpart Howard Okwemba who says he will need a broader squad since Kenya Cup clubs are required to have second string teams which feature in the Eric Shirley Shield.
“The boys showed a lot of commitment during the entire season and that worked for us. The Kenya Cup is a different level altogether and we must ensure that the players are properly conditioned in readiness for the tough fixtures,” Okwemba said, two days after guiding his side to the KRU Championship title with a 23-5 win over Bulls.
Kisumu beat MMUST in the playoffs before seeing off another varsity side Catholic Monks 14-11 in a closely contested semi-final which had to be decided in sudden death after the sides were level 11-11 in regulation time.
“We knew what we wanted after qualifying for the playoffs and everyone was ready to deliver. The realistic target, for now, is to avoid relegation then we can set other goals,” Okwemba said.
Kisumu and Bulls have replaced Mean Machine and Strathmore Leos who were relegated from the Kenya Cup.
Kisumu RFC, Bulls KRU Championship record
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