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DEBUT CHANCE FOR OJEE, MUKIDZA: Duo among four new players to wear national jerseys for Saturday match

RUGBY By Rodgers Eshitemi | May 27th 2015
Team Manager Kenya Squad Wangila Simiyu, left and Chairman Kenya Rugby Union Richard Omwela during the naming of Kenyan team to play Portugal this weekend at Harliquins grounds, Nairobi on Tuesday, May 26th, 2015. PHOTO/ JONAH ONYANGO.

The KCB duo of winger Jacob Ojee and utility back Darwin Mukidza will debut for Kenya 15s when the national team plays visiting Portugal in an international friendly match at the RFUEA grounds on Saturday.

Tusker Simba XV head coach Jerome Paarwater has opted for a mix of youth and experience, with a number of teenagers making the squad for the clash against the 23rd ranked European side.

Another notable inclusion in the 23-man squad named at RFUEA yesterday is Impala’s Samuel Oliech, who will also be making his maiden national team appearance.

Speaking after naming the squad, team manager Simiyu Wangila said they had learnt from their failure to qualify for this year's World Cup, but hope to use test matches to prepare them for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

“We have retained most of the players who featured in the Vodacom Tournament last year and added a few names. We have young players with whom I believe we will make the World Cup squad. I am confident the likes of Ojee, Mukidza and Oliech will prove their worth. It was bitter to miss out on the World Cup ticket last year, but we have picked up the pieces. We are just polishing up our technical aspects for the big games against Namibia, Zimbabwe and Tunisia,” said Simiyu.

“It is quite a blessing to have a European team come to Africa and play with us in our first test match. If we play among the best 25 teams in the world, then we will attract more sponsorship.”

His sentiments were echoed by team captain Brian Nyikuli, who has taken over the captaincy from Wilson Kopondo, who will miss the match due to academic commitments.

“It was really painful when we lost in Madagascar last year. But when we play top sides like Portugal and Spain, then our rankings will improve as we aim to qualify for Japan.”

Meanwhile, the 13th edition of the Bamburi Rugby Super Series hangs in the balance after the cement manufacturing firm, who are its main sponsors, failed to commit to this year’s competition following misappropriation of funds in the 2014 edition.

This comes barely a few months after Safaricom Limited withdrew their sponsorship package towards the annual Safaricom Sevens and the Safaricom National Sevens Circuit.

Speaking at the Tusker Simba XV squad naming ceremony at RFUEA yesterday, Kenya Rugby Union chairman Richard Omwela said they were considering an alternative plan to stage the tournaments.

“Bamburi asked for some documents, which we presented. But they are yet to communicate back. However, we are talking to a number of sponsors who might come on board, but not as title sponsors,” said Omwela.

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