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Kenya rugby braces for tough World Cup qualifiers

26 June 2014, 14:25

Nairobi - Defending champions Kenya, hosts Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Namibia will be in action from Saturday 28 June to Sunday 6 July for the Confederation of African Rugby's Division 1A Championships in Antananarivo. All in all it is likely to be the toughest CAR Cup yet.No side has left anything to chance, especially when you consider that the winner of this year's championship will earn direct qualification to the Rugby World Cup taking place in England in 2015.

Kenya were in South Africa for an eight week training stint that saw them play in the Vodacom Cup, a second tier provincial tournament. The Simbas returned to Kenya and resumed training ahead of the final stretch. They played a build up match against South Africa's Western Province in Nairobi on Saturday 7 June before heading for high altitude training in Nanyuki, a town located on the slopes of Africa’s second highest mountain, Mt. Kenya. Jerome Paarwater named his final squad on Tuesday 24 June, a squad captained by Wilson Kopondo but devoid of French based winger Willy Ambaka who sustained a hairline fracture in Nanyuki.  Paarwater has however boosted the squad, calling up the likes of sevens stalwarts Humphrey Kayange, Collins Injera, Andrew Amonde, Lavin Asego and Patrice Agunda to the squad largely comprising players who featured in the Vodacom Cup for Tusker Simba XV as they look to defend the title, and with it grab Africa's sole direct ticket to England.

Namibia were Africa's representatives at the 1999, 2003,2007 and 2011 World Cups and they will look to reach a fifth successive final. The South Africans make a return to Division 1A after plunging to Division 1B following their relegation after skipping the 2011 CAR Cup citing post world cup fatigue. The Namibians have played two build up matches against South African opposition, beating Western Province 30-28 before falling to a 13-34 loss at the hands of the Blue Bulls. They will be without their iconic flanker Jacques Burger who is out with a knee injury sustained while playing for his English club side, Saracens. They still have a strong side led by skipper PJ van Lill and have declared their intention to go all out for the title, and with it the direct route to England and Wales 2015.

Zimbabwe have looked to their experienced legion to aid their hopes of a first RWC appearance since featuring at the 1987 and 1991 editions. Players like South African born Lambert Groenewald who features for South African provincial side  Golden Lions. They have also recalled a number of experienced players such as Durban based Simba Mandiona, Denford Mutamangira and Danny Robertson.They also have in their ranks former Scotland U-20 flanker Andrew Rose.

The Sables had lined up an international fixture in Harare and a series of training matches against provincial sides in South Africa en route to the CAR Cup in Madagascar. This did not materialize and they instead opted for a 10 day training camp, before playing a “Possibles “ v “Probables” fixture from where they would select their final 26. The Sables have also been boosted by Leinster and former Ireland U-20 scrum half Peter du Toit’s decision to play for them.

Hosts Madagascar were penned to play against an unnamed French side before the CAR Cup kicks off. Playing Madagascar at home is always a tough proposition for visiting sides, and with all to play for in this year's tournament, there is likely to be no change.

All in all, it is going to be an exciting, bruising battle in Madagascar, the allure of direct qualification too tempting for each side.

Fixtures (Kenyan time (+3 GMT) indicated

Saturday 28 June 2014

Kenya v Namibia – 1.00pm
Madagascar v Zimbabwe – 3.00pm

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Namibia v Zimbabwe – 1.00pm
Madagascar v Kenya – 3.00pm

Sunday 6 July 2014

Kenya v Zimbabwe – 1.00pm
Madagascar v Namibia – 3.00pm

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- News24

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