A happy new year to one and all, here is hoping that you and yours made it to the new year in good shape.
If I could summarise my hopes for the Kenya Rugby year 2024 in a word, it would be, recovery. After the pounding that the sport has taken over the last three or so years, especially in 2023, we can only hope for some reprieve.
So here goes, my expectations for the Kenya Rugby year 2024.
The 2023/24 men’s Kenya Cup looks like one of the easier ones to predict in recent times, three rounds in and I can’t see anyone stopping Kabras from claiming their third title on the trot, and even going further to become the first side in modern day history to go unbeaten, back to back.
I put this down to two things, the sheer amount of work they are putting in, to quote a friend from a discussion we had recently, “By the time the rest of the teams wake up in the morning, Kabras are already two sessions in.”
The second is that Tang Tang have a settled squad that is probably in its 4th or 5th year together with very little changes. They know how to win and they collectively broke through that KCB barrier that haunted them for a while.
Beating this Kabras side will be a mammoth task, but if anyone can do it then it will be their closest challengers KCB, who have rejigged their side from last season with some exciting new young faces joining them. From what I have seen, they are yet to kick into full gear, let’s wait and see what the rest of the season holds for them.
The other teams, who have an outside chance to challenge those two are the Menengai Oilers and Kenya Harlequins, though I don’t see them getting past the semis. With six teams making it to the playoffs this season, those two other slots are all up for grabs, maybe Blad and Strathmore, Nondies, Nakuru?
On the other side of the table, I see the Monks and Homeboyz getting the chop, the latter will probably be fortunate to complete the season, with MMUST and Impala coming up the other way from the Championship.
The women’s Kenya Cup is yet to kick off, so this is purely on a whim, I think the Impala Roans will finally come good, after going close against Mwamba, on two occasions. Also as history has taught us, the third Kenya Cup is usually the toughest, yes this applies to the men too, especially.
There have been whispers of a Kenya Cup sponsor, but they remain just that, let’s hope they come true, it would be the highlight of the season!
“The Lionesses are our best bet at making a fifteens World Cup…” 2024 will again bear this statement true. The XVs Lionesses will have two major assignments this year, the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup (against South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar, and Cameroon) sometime in May and the WXV3 (against Samoa, Fiji, Spain, Kazakhstan, and one more opponent to be determined) later in the year.
The Rugby Africa Women’s Cup will double up as a qualifier for the 2025 Rugby World Cup to be held in England. I don’t see us having enough to see off South Africa in the RAWC, as they have had far better preparations. I, however, expect us to see off the rest of the sides and play in the Repechage (remember vs Colombia at Nyayo in 2021, yes.)
I also see us maintaining our WXV3 status, with a revenge win vs Kazakhstan on the cards. If this Lionesses side can get proper support and program, I repeat, they are our best bet at an XVs World Cup.
The 7s Lionesses kick off their calendar this weekend (12th-14th Jan) in Dubai for the first leg of the Challenger series, they will then play in Uruguay (8th-10th March), Poland (18th-19th May) then the final leg which will be the promotion playoff in Madrid (31st May – 2nd June).
After the series is done, they will then take on Argentina, China, Czechia, Hong Kong China, Jamaica, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Samoa, and Uganda in Monaco (21st – 23rd June) for that final slot at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Both the Olympic and Core side qualifications are within reach for the Lionesses, especially the Olympics. We’ll probably have faced all those teams at least once in the Challenger series by the time we get to Monaco, so we will know what to expect. I will go out on a limb and make the call that we’ll qualify for the Olympics!
After a busy 2023, it looks like it will be a silent 2024 for Chipu with only the Barthes Cup confirmed for April against Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Tunisia for a slot at the U20 World Rugby Trophy.
With this being the start of a new World Cup cycle our focus should now shift to this Chipu class and the one before as our anchors for the 2027 campaign. Apart from the Barthes Cup and U20 WRT (If we win the Barthes Cup), the team will probably only have the Elgon Cup to look forward to this year.
Zimbabwe is still a step or two ahead, so I don’t think we’ll get past them at the Barthes Cup unless they have a whole new team, which I highly doubt.
Just like their juniors, 2024 looks to be a silent year for the Simbas with the Africa and Victoria Cups on the cards. In the Africa Cup set for July, the Simbas will take on Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Algeria. The opponents and dates for the Victoria Cup are yet to be confirmed but I suspect it will be the same as last year.
Early indicators point to the fact that we might no longer play in the Currie Cup first division, with SARU restructuring their leagues. This just means that we need to start scouting for more playing opportunities, whispers are that we might host a European side for a test series this year.
From what we saw last year at the Elgon/Victoria Cup, it looks like this is the first year of building a team towards 2027, so I won’t get my hopes up, let’s set the foundation first.
2024 is a big year for Shujaa who are aiming to get back into the World Series and become the first Kenyan team to medal at the Olympic games.
Like the 7s Lionesses, they kick off their Challenger series campaign this weekend in Dubai, where they are pooled alongside Mexico, Uganda, and Germany. Shujaa will then play in Uruguay (8-10 March), then in Munich (18-19 May), before taking on the promotion play-off in Madrid (31st May – 2nd June).
Somewhere in there will be the All-Africa Games set for March in Ghana, a perfect opportunity to allow some of the ‘fringe’ players to impress, heading into those last two legs of the Challenger series, and the Olympic games set for 24th–30th July.
As mentioned the team has set itself the lofty goals of getting back to the series and medalling at the Olympics. From where I sit, I see the team reaching one of those goals, and that is getting promoted back to the series.
The Olympic dream might be a bit far-fetched at the moment, seeing as we’ll be up against the best of the best, opposition that we would have not encountered in over a year. But as they say, mpira hudunda, especially hapa kwa sevens…we wait and see!
There is a certain vibe to this team that I haven’t felt in a while, almost feels like when Friday took over. They are putting in the work and are quietly and slowly growing in confidence with every outing, I wish them all the best in their quest!
Will 2024 be the year that we finally see the return of the Rugby Super Series? Those whispers are pointing towards that direction and what a joy it will be to see the tournament back. I wouldn’t get my hopes up though, the tournament has been on the Union’s calendar since 2013.
Apart from the Safari Sevens which promises to be quite the festival in 2024, the one tournament I am looking forward to the most is the Legends Cup. After a successful inaugural edition last year, I can’t wait to see what those wazees have in store for us this year!
In other news, I hope we see a more stable year in terms of governance across the board, let’s all pull in one direction for the betterment of the game, yes that includes you the fan.
Finally, here is wishing you all a great rugby year ahead, may you be nice to each other, and may the rugby ball bounce in your favour!
KWISHA… Nimeruka Nje!!!