New year salutations my good people, here is hoping that 2022 found you happy and that it carries with it loads of joy… on to the rugby!
‘Ceteris paribus,’ the Kenya rugby year 2022 should be a proper action packed calendar, both locally and beyond our borders, here is five things to look forward to.
Unlike previous years where the focus has been on the race to the coveted top six play off places, in 2022 the battle to maintain Kenya Cup status will definitely be more exciting. As it stands Impala and Mwamba occupy the bottom two places, with Nakuru, Nondies and Homeboyz within touching distance.
That battle will definitely intensify as the season plays out, expect matches between any of those five to be real dog scraps, did I mention that MMUST and Blak Blad are also not that far off? Don’t be surprised if that KCB v Blad match that was awarded as a draw is replayed sometime before the league phase closes.
On a rather disappointing note, it will be sad to see one of these great rugby clubs go down, especially when you consider they are in this state due to the financial constraints occasioned by the pandemic.
Expect the same old battle at the other side of the table, with Quins, Strathmore and Menengai Oilers offering the escort services. Or maybe just maybe this will be the year that we see a different finalist?
This will also be the year we crown the first Women’s Kenya Cup winner, Yamanashi Impala look like odd on favourites to lift that title in March. On a side note, KRU should look into shifting the men’s kick off to 4PM, with the women’s games kicking off at 2PM at the same venues, now wouldn’t that be something?
RWC 2023 Qualifiers
This will be the year that we find out whether we’ll book our tickets to France for sometime in September 2023, with the Simbas set to play in the last round of the Africa qualifier this July in wait for it…France, fantastique!
Rugby Africa’s tomfoolery aside, the Simbas will be facing Uganda in the quarter final, with Namibia taking on Burkina Faso, Senegal facing Algeria and Zimbabwe tackling Ivory Coast. If we get past Uganda, we’ll face the winner between Senegal and Algeria in the semi, with Zim and Namibia most probably facing off in the other semi.
As mentioned in the 2021 review the Simbas finished the year strongly with the tour down south, if we can get a few more quality tests before these qualifiers we will be at a good place to claim that spot in Pool A of the 2023 RWC.
Commonwealth Games & Sevens World Cup
It will be a busy year for the Shujaa, in addition to the seven legs to play in the World series, they’ll have the Commonwealth games in end of July and the World Cup in September, the latter requiring a qualifier (3 slots available from Africa) somewhere within that hectic calendar.
Shujaa get into 2022 ranked 8th in the world series, they kick off their campaign later this month in Malaga and Seville, where we will all be hoping for improved performances from what we saw in Dubai. While I am cautiously optimistic of a great showing in the series, with a top 8 finish very possible, I hope that we will finally show up in these two international tournaments that we have failed to impress in over the last two cycles.
The sevens Lionesses will also have to play through a qualifier for a slot in the World Cup, but with SA already qualified as hosts, I am pretty confident we will qualify. Unlike their male counterparts the lionesses will have fewer tournaments in the calendar ahead of the Commonwealth games, here is hoping they get a few warm up opportunities.
Return of Rugby
While rugby returned in 2021, 2022 will be when it really kicks in, with a full calendar and fans back in the stands. First up will be the Barthes Cup in April with Chipu out to claim their third title on the trot and another stab at the JWRC.
This will also be the year that the sevens caravan returns, after the success of 2019 expect this season to be a proper festival, both on and off the pitch. It will also be the year that you get back to making up excuses to miss Easter with the family for the Great Rift ten a side.
As mentioned, the Simbas will be taking on Uganda in the RWC qualifier in July, which makes the return of the Elgon Cup a bit tricky, but what if we play the first leg in Kisumu maybe in May, even with ‘A’ sides? Then that qualifier as the second leg? Wisdom? I know, it will also get the Fifteens Lionesses some game time in what looks to be like a slow year for them.
Just like the country, 2022 is an election year for KRU, which should be held before 31st March, the posts up for grabs being; Vice Chairman, Secretary General, Treasurer and two directors. So far there have only been murmurs of who will be going for what position, candidates are expected to make their declarations in early February. Here is hoping that the delegates will place the interests of the sport ahead of those of their stomachs when they vote.
Barring any more interruptions, 2022 promises to be a great rugby year, whatever you do, make sure you show up for your club’s matches, pay the gate charges and enjoy the games, remember to stay safe and see you around.
KWISHA… Nimeruka Nje!!!