Rugby Super Series: Cheetahs seek to outsprint Lions

Cheetahs' Collins Indeche is tackled by Christopher Otieno of Buffaloes during the Rugby Super Series 2024 match at RFUEA. May 4, 2024. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

As the Cheetahs host Lions in a Rugby Super Series match at Nakuru Athletic Club this afternoon, whoever wins it will have one leg in the finals with a match in hand in the round robin series.

The fact that there is a place in the final on offer makes the match a must win for both sides after convincingly winning the opening matches last weekend.

Cheetahs clawed Buffaloes 18-5 at Rugby Football Union of East Africa Grounds as Lions mauled Rhinos 29-7.

Cheetahs head coach Lawrence Buyachi has vowed to maintain the winning streak while his Lions counterpart Oliver Mang’eni said they must reach the finals.

“What we only need to do is to polish a few grey areas that cost us a number of vital kicks in a match we should have won by a bigger margin against Rhinos,” Mang’eni told Standard Sports.

The former KCB lock said they need to improve on scrums and play a physical game known to Cheetahs while keeping the scoreboard pressure in their favor.

“By putting the scoreboard on our side puts pressure to our opponents as we improve on our scrums. We’ll play a physical game, which our opponents are used to,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cheetahs has been boosted by the return of their three key players who joined training sessions last weekend.

The trio were part of the national Under-20 side, Chipu, who won the 2024 Barthes Cup in Zimbabwe and helped Kenya qualify for World Rugby U20 Trophy. 

The trio who include Menengai Oilers duo of Ali Mwavuli and Erick Etale and Nakuru RFC scrum half Philip Okeyo will be instrumental to the team according to coach Buyachi.

“They should be in the starting line up as we need to utilise their experience and exposure gained from that international assignment,” said Buyachi.

Buyachi said they are ready to play in all kinds of weather conditions whether under heavy rains or in dry conditions, a development that gave Mang’eni anxious moments.

“We have trained under all conditions and ready for the epic match whether on dry or wet conditions as we have trained in similar conditions,” Buyachi said.

“I’m cautious about the Lions as it’s an experienced side full of international players from KCB besides others but we can as well stop them."

Mang’eni is worried of playing in a slippery pitch, which caused them a number of kicks against the Rhinos.

Cheetahs is made up of players from Menengai Oilers, Nakuru RFC, relegated Homeboyz RFC, promoted Impala, relegated Kabarak University and University of Eldoret.

“By recording positive results assures us an easy sail to the finals. And we’ll not relent and I have advised my boys to fight like a wounded lion from the first to the last whistle,” said Buyachi who is a former international with Nakuru RFC.

Meanwhile, Buffaloes and Rhinos will also be squaring it out at the same venue with each team looking for their first win.

Buffaloes coach Max Adaka said the tournament is still open and no-one should brag he’s ahead of the pack.

“The competition is still open and nobody should brag as the dynamics of such matches could change anytime,” said the Kabras Sugar assistant coach as he exuded confidence of overcoming their opponents.

Oliver Callum, the Rhinos tactician said what’s needed in his team is to improve.

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