Unlike the 2018 season, Kenya Simbas had few matches to play in 2019 in the international season.
In 2018 Kenya had 10 matches to play, five in the Africa Gold Cup, three in Repechage and the other clashes were against Uganda in the Elgon Cup first leg and against Romania in a friendly prior the Repechage. Just like the 2018 season, the team headed to the new campaign with a new coach.
Ian Snook who was in charge of the Simbas in 2018 was relieved off his duties after failing to guide the side to the World Cup. Paul Odera who had guided Kenya Under 20 to Barthes Cup success beating Namibia 21-18 at KCB Sports Club was handed the coaching role. Kenya had the Elgon Cup and Victoria Cup to take part in after the Africa Gold Cup was cancelled due to financial constraints after broadcasters Kwese pulled out.
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Odera’s first squad saw most of the senior players miss out. In his first provisional squad, he had 31 new faces out of the 44 picked. Senior players such as Davis Chenge, Moses Amusala, Tony Onyango, Felix Ayange, Peter Karia, Philip Ikambili, and Leo Seje were omitted from the provisional and never featured in the 2019 matches. Over 30 players made their international debuts for the Simbas in the six matches played.
Emmanuel Silungi, Coulson Dominic, Okoth John and Mutuku Jeff were the youngest players to make their debuts for Kenya at 19 years. Andrew Amonde, 35, was the oldest players that featured in the 2019 International season. He was the only player above the age of 30 to feature for Kenya.
10 debutants started against Uganda while four more were on the bench in Odera’s first match in charge. Kenya suffered a 16-13 loss at Mamboleo Grounds in Kisumu County. Debutants Griffin Musila and Geoffrey Okwach scored a try each in the loss. The match served as Elgon and Victoria Cup opener. Four more players would earn their full debut while four others made a cameo debut as Kenya Simbas beat Uganda 16-5 in Kyadondo during the return leg to retain the Elgon Cup.
Kenya Simbas coach had minimal changes to the squad as he headed out for the third clash of the season which was against Zambia. The side would whip the Zambians 43-23 and Curtis Lilako scored his first ever try for Kenya Simbas. A weekend later, Kenya were in Zimbabwe but despite scoring five tries, missed conversions allowed the hosts Zimbabwe win the match 30-29.
With two defeats in the opening four, the coach was looking to end the season on high. Francis Mwita, Brian Amaitsa, Samuel Asati, Eliud Mulakoli, Ian Njenga were introduced to the International scene for the return clash against Zambia played at RFUEA Grounds which ended 31-16 for Kenya.
Asati was named the Man of the Match while Lilako got his second try for Kenya on his 38th appearance. At this point, Odera coached side had 16 points after five matches in the Victoria Cup. Zimbabwe were leading 17 points despite playing four matches. Zim would beat Zambia to retain the Victoria Cup and reduced the final clash against Simbas to a dead rubber.
The Simbas ended the year on high with a 36-14 victory at Nakuru Athletic Club in a match that Timothy Okwemba and Vincent Onyala made the full debut. Frank Mutuku, Elisha Koronya, Ian Masheti, Brian Juma, Samuel Were, Barry Robinson, Tony Omondi and Michael Kimwele also got their international appearance for Kenya Simbas. Onyala was named the man of the match as Kenya Simbas finished second in the tournament.
List of 2019 Debutants: 1. Ian Njenga, 2. Toby Francombe, 2.Melvin Thairu, 4. Emmanuel Silungi, 5.Mwita Francis, 6. Brian Amaitsa, Monate Akuei 8. Fidel Oloo, 9.Michael Wanjala 10. Charles Kuka, 11. Billy Omondi, 12. Johnstone Munga’u, 13 John Okoth, 14.Geoffrey Okwatch, 15 Isaac Njoroge
16. Elisha Koronya, 17.Griffin Musila, 18.Ian Masheti, 19 Joseph Shem, 20 Brian Juma, 21. Samuel Were, 22. Coulson Cameron 23Frank Mutuku 24.Samuel Asati, 25.Tony Omondi 26.Timothy Okwemba, 27.Tendwa Charles, 28.Vincent Onyala 29.Michael Kimwele, 30. Anthony Odhiambo, 31. Dominic Coulson, 31. Barry Robinson, 32. Jeff Mutuku, 33. Eluid Mulakoli.
Kenya Simbas results
Kenya 36 – 14 Zimbabwe – NAC Grounds- SAT SEP 21 2019
Kenya 31 – 16 Zambia RFUEA Grounds -SAT AUG 24 2019
Zimbabwe 30 – 29 Kenya – Hartsfield, Bulawayo-SAT AUG 3 2019
Zambia 23 – 43 Kenya – Diggers Rugby Club, Kitwe- SAT JUL 27 2019
Uganda 5 – 16 Kenya – Kyadondo RFC, Kampala- SAT JUL 13 2019
Kenya 13 – 16 Uganda- Mamboleo Showground, Kisumu -SAT JUN 22 2019
Kenya Simbas 2019 scorecard
Matches played: 6
Biggest win: Zambia 23 – 43 Kenya
Trophies: Elgon Cup, 2nd place finish in Victoria Cup
Oldest Player to feature: Andrew Amonde (age 35)
Youngest players to feature: Emmanuel Silungi, Coulson Dominic, Okoth John and Mutuku Jeff (19)