Preview: Uganda Rugby Cranes vs Kenya Simbas

Action from a past match pitting Kenya against Uganda/photo/courtesy

The stage is set for the first leg of the annual Elgon Cup that pits Africa’s oldest foes in Uganda and Kenya. 
Heading to Saturday’s first leg contest in Kampala, the Kenya Simbas appear to have an edge at least on paper as they have a superior head to head record apart from boasting of ten Elgon Cup titles against Uganda’s four.
If the match day squads declared by Uganda’s Robert Seguya and Ian Snook of Kenya are anything to go by, Saturday’s contest should offer nothing short of pure entertainment.
The match is special to the Kenyans in that it will provide fans with an opportunity to gauge newly appointed coach Ian Snook as it will be his first assignment since taking over the mantle from South African Jerome Paarwater.
Last year’s reverse fixture in Kampala saw the Simbas pick a hard earned 23-18 win thanks to the indefatigable Darwin Mukidza who had a good day in office with his boot.
A late penalty try in Nairobi would see the Simbas force a 33-all draw that saw them lift a second successive crown.
Last six Elgon Cup meetings
Kenya 93-34 Uganda (Kenya 45-24 Uganda) (Uganda 10-48 Kenya)
Uganda 47-45 Kenya (Uganda 30-25 Kenya) (Kenya 20-17 Uganda)
Kenya 48-14 Uganda (Kenya 34-0 Uganda) (Uganda 21-14 Kenya)
Uganda 30-35 Kenya (Uganda 13-19 Kenya) (Kenya 16-17 Uganda)
Kenya 17-19 Uganda (Kenya 12-0 Uganda) (Uganda 19-5 Kenya)
Uganda 51-56 Kenya (Uganda 18-23 Kenya) (Kenya 33-33 Uganda)
Uganda Rugby Cranes
As part of their preparations for the 2018 campaign, the side under the tutelage of former Heathens coach Robert Seguya has played two build up matches both in Kampala against the South African Barbarians, losing 29-39 and 8-22 on both occasions.They also held a two day camp at Dam Waters in Jinja.
The side had its two friendlies against Free State Cheetahs postponed due to their participation in the Elgon Cup first leg.
Kenya Simbas
The Simbas head to the clash buoyed by the arrival of New Zealand duo of head coach Ian Snook and his assistant Murray Roulston.Snook brings a vast wealth of experience to the side having been involved with the odd shaped ball as a coach since 1978.He has previously coached in his home country of New Zealand, South Africa,Japan, England, Australia, Croatia, Italy, Ireland and Laos.
The side recently returned from high altitude training in Nanyuki where they held a three day camp ahead of the busy 2018 schedule.
Line ups
Uganda coach Robert Seguya has included seven debuntants in his squad as he looks to find the perfect replacements for his key members of the forward line who are sidelined with injuries.
Among the seven is Kenyan based backrower Elphaz Emong who plies his trade with Kakamega outfit Kabras Sugar.Other players who will be donning national colours for the first time in an international fixture are Edgar Pajab, Nathan Bwambale, Paul Sekatte, Simon Olet, Adrian Kasito and Ian Munyani.
Former captain Brian Odongo, Alex Mubiru, Matthias Ochwo and Scott Oluoch are not  part of the squad.
Seguya will rely on the experience of the likes of Philip Wokorach, Asuman Mugerwa, Ivan Kirabo, James Odong and Aaron Ofoyrowth to hand the side a win.
Simbas coach Ian Snook has handed  a senior debut to Kenya U20 captain Xavier Kipng’etich who could play off the bench as an understudy to his Impala Saracens team-mate Samson Onsomu.Malcolm Onsando, Patrick Ouko, Joseph Odero and Andrew Chogo are also in line for their debuts.
Snook will  miss the services of captain Wilson Kopondo who has not made the travelling squad with another senior member of the squad Joshua Chisanga also out of the fray.