Lionesses eye Uganda scalp in Elgon Cup tie

By Clement Wekulo: Friday, June 21st 2019 at 00:05 GMT +3 | Rugby
Kenya Lioness Rugby team's Christabel Tata training at RFU Grounds on Nov 2, 2017. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Regional bragging rights will be on the line when the national women’s rugby 15s team hosts neighbours Uganda in the first leg of the Elgon Cup at the Mamboleo Showground in Kisumu tomorrow.

With the return leg scheduled for Kampala next month, the winner of the match which kicks off at 1.30pm will take a massive step as far as clinching the title is concerned.

The tag of Elgon Cup defending champions coupled with home advantage makes the Lionesses outright favourites but despite the odds being in their favour, head coach Felix Oloo has warned his charges against complacency.

Kenya were held to a 5-5 draw at home before beating the Lady Cranes 7-6 on the road the last time the sides faced off in 2015. Since then, the women’s Elgon Cup has not been played owing to logistical challenges.

“There is never an easy match so long as you have 15 players facing off. Both teams have been preparing well for the past few months and they (Uganda) are definitely hungry to prove a point. We expect them to come hard at us,” Oloo told Standard Sports.

Both teams will use the two-legged fixture to prepare for the 2021 World Cup qualifiers slated for Johannesburg in August and Oloo hopes the match will provide them with a glimpse of what to expect when they renew their rivalry with Uganda in the South African city.

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Oloo will bank on veteran skipper Philadelphia Olando to inspire the Lionesses. The Northern Suburbs player, who also features for the national Sevens team, has been handed a start at the centre where she is set to partner with her Sevens counterpart Celestine Masinde of Mwamba.

“I have told the girls to express themselves while paying attention to the basics of the game which are often overlooked. It will all depend on our mental strength and we plan to play an open, structured game,” Oloo said.

“The Ugandan players are huge and tend to rely much on contact rugby and we shall try not to play like them. It would be good if they sing to our tune rather than us singing to theirs,” said Oloo.

Zimbabwe’s Precious Pazani, who was the referee in the Africa Under-20 championship final between Kenya and Namibia in April, will officiate the match.

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