Simbas just one win away from historic World Cup qualification

Kenya Simbas players celebrate after scoring a try against Uganda during their 2022 Rugby Africa Cup quarterfinals match at Stade Delort, Marseille in France last Saturday. [Rugby Africa]

For the second match running, KCB scrumhalf Samuel Asati produced a Man of the Match performance as Kenya Simbas knocked out Algeria 36-33 in a tense 2022 Rugby Africa Cup semifinal match played at Stade Delort, Marseille in France on Wednesday. 

But it is Menengai Oilers centre John Okoth who was once again Simbas' silent hero grabbing two tries to put Paul Odera's men one step away from qualifying for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Simbas will now battle with their perennial rivals Namibia in an eagerly awaited final on Sunday with the winner earning an automatic ticket to the World Cup. Namibia beat Zimbabwe Sables 34-19 in the second semis on Wednesday night.

Just as he was the mastermind of Kenya’s 42-7 big win over Uganda last Saturday, Okoth grounded a brace of tries as fullback Darwin Mukidza, hooker Eugene Sifuna and Bryceson Adaka scored one each for the Simbas. 

Mukidza made three conversions, while Jone Kubu, who replaced him, curled over a conversion and a penalty in the high-octane match. 

Speaking after the match, Simbas head coach Paul Odera said he was impressed with how the players reacted after making a difficult start to the game as they seek to secure their maiden Rugby World Cup qualification.

“We struggled a bit in the set pieces but we have to give credit to them. Every time Algeria came back at us we were able to get ahead. Algeria, as expected, were going to be a tough opponent. They were always going to put us under a lot of pressure in the forwards,” explained Odera.  

Odera further said he is confident the team can win in the final after having prepared well for the qualifiers. He said they will be facing a familiar foe having played Namibia previously.

“But mine is so much joy, we are one game away from coming back to France in 2023 which is huge. So proud of the team, just enjoying the win. We regroup, we recover and then we go again," said Odera.

“The boys do realise that it is just 80 minutes away from making history as the first Simbas team to qualify for the Rugby World Cup."

Both Kenya and Namibia met in 2018 fighting for a place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup with Namibia emerging 53-28 winners at home. 

The Rugby Africa Cup champions on Sunday will take their place in Group A at the 2023 Rugby World Cup as Africa 1, alongside France, New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay. The runners-up will head into the final qualification tournament.

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