NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 8 – Kenya Harlequins boss Charles Cardovillis will look to frustrate his former employers and break their unbeaten run as the Ngong-road based outfit prepares to host league leaders Kabras Sugar when the Kenya Cup resumes on Saturday.
Cardovillis left Kabras after leading them to the final last year where they lost to KCB and has since re-united with Quins, working with former Kenya Sevens tactician Benjamin Ayimba, guiding the side to third place after eight rounds of matches.
“We’ve started 2019 unbeaten and I am happy with the progress made by the boys. It’s no secret that Kabras players are in very good form, the table speaks for itself. They are the best team in the country at the moment. I hope the boys come out, play and execute the game plan which we feel will inflict the first defeat on Kabras,” Cardovillis said looking ahead to the fixture.
He added; “It’s a game everyone has been waiting for and I expect it to live to the billing. Both sides have some very good players and I hope they all don’t let the pressure get to them so they can play some good rugby as they demonstrate the skills they have.”
Quins come into the tie oozing confidence especially after hitting noisy neighbors Impala RFC 37-24 in the last Kenya Cup matchweek and will be looking to bag maximum points and close in the gap on second placed KCB who are four points ahead of them.
Last weekend, Quins hammered Ngong 80-3 in the Enterprise Cup to further boost their confidence.
From the team that played Ngong, the tactician has made four changes. Loose-head Brian Obwaya hooker Frank Kalwale, tight-head Paul Kioko and lock Hilary Baraza replace Elisha Koronya, Edward Oseko, Melvin Thairu and Roxy Dan Suchi respectively.
Patrice Agunda and Herman Humwa are retained as the day’s blind and open flankers but there is a return for captain Peter Misango at number eight meaning George Scott, who scored a double against Ngong, drops to the bench.
Half-backs Dominic Osino and Eden Agero move from the bench to start as Willy Ambaka starts on the right wing, Iddi Kakai on the left wing, Frank Wanyama at inside centre, David Ambunya at midfield and Lyle Asiligwa at fullback.
Meanwhile, Kabras change only three position for the tie.
Loose-head Hosea Ngesa comes in for Ephraim Oduor who drops to the bench, flanker Dan Sikuta returns in place of Charlton Mokua while Kevin Keegan will start on the blind wing to see Fabian Olando also settle for a place on the bench.
Logan Basson, who has put up an outstanding performance since joining Kabras at the start of the season, is named the usual stand-off while Ugandan superstar Philip Wokorach is at fullback.
Mario Wilson and Nick Baraza are at midfield, Paul Abuto on the open-wing while vice-captain Brian Tanga will be the scrum-half as expected.
Max Adaka skippers the team at hooker, Brian Juma and Hillary Odhiambo are the day’s second rows while George Nyambua and Claude Johannes join Sikuta in the backrow.
Elsewhere, defending champions KCB will be in Madaraka tackling Strathmore University as they look to bridge the five point gap with leaders Kabras.
Head coach Curtis Olago has handed lock Nick Ongeri his first Kenya Cup appearance of the season after 10 months on the sideline.
Ongeri has been out after undergoing a knee surgery for an injury sustained during last season’s Kenya Cup final win over Kabras in March.
He has however featured for the club’s Eric Shirley Shield (ESS) team in the wins over Nakuru RFC, Blak Blad and Mean Machine in 2019 on his way to fitness.
Ongeri replaces Francis Mwita in the starting team and will pair Kenyan international Oliver Mangeni.
Other changes see Brian Nyikuli and Brian Omondi replace Fellix Ojoo and Essau Otieno(bench) as the bankers seek their eighth win of the season in nine matches.
Kenya 7s international Vincent Onyala makes the bench after returning from Sydney 7s but there is no place for speedster and now Kenya 7s captain Jacob Ojee.
Kenya Cup weekend fixtures:
Mwamba vs Blakblad 2:00pm, RFUEA
Kenya Harlequins vs Kabras Sugar RFC 4:00pm, RFUEA
Strathmore vs KCB 4:00pm, Madaraka
Mean Machine vs Homeboyz, 4:00pm UON
Nakuru vs Nondescripts, 4:00pm Nakuru NAC
Menengai Oilers vs Impala, 4:00pm Nakuru ASK
-Material from RagaHouse and KRU used to compile this preview
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