NAIROBI, Kenya- The biggest rugby rivalry in the continent returns on Saturday at the RFUEA Grounds in Nairobi when Kenya Simba XVs face Uganda in an Africa Gold Cup qualifier.
The encounter will double up as the second leg of the annual Elgon Cup with champions Kenya aiming to retain the crown after escaping with a 23-18 victory over Uganda in the opening fixture played in Kampala on July 10.
The trophy first played in 2004 is named after Mount Elgon that straddles Kenya and Uganda with the visiting Rugby Cranes out to upset the home side that has a better record of nine wins against three.
Jerome Paarwaters’ Simbas will be keen to avoid the errors that saw Germany beat them 29-30 in their last home game that was a World Rugby (WR) Test with victory against Uganda lifting them to 25th in the global rankings.
In rankings released on Monday, Kenya swapped places with Portugal who fell to a 25-21 loss to Brazil in Sao Paulo last weekend.
“We had to clear out our errors and be disciplined in our defence, that is what worked for us as we came back in the game in the second half,” Darwin Mukidza who led the Simbas out in Kampala told Kenya Rugby Union’s website.
The Elgon Cup has only failed to take off once in the 13-year history in 2005 when preference was given to the Rugby World Cup qualifiers.
Kenya beat Uganda 18-8 on aggregate in 2004 before the Cranes bagged their first win when competition resumed in 2006 with a narrow 29-27 victory over two legs.
Simbas went on to hold on to crown except in 2012 and 2015 when Uganda stemmed the tide.
Kenya reclaimed the trophy last year after whitewashing their rivals 48-10 in Kampala before sealing the rout with another 45-24 pasting in Nairobi.
Like the second leg of last year Saturday’s encounter will act as a qualifier for the Rugby Africa Cup of Nations, recently renamed Gold Cup.
Kenya are out to deny Uganda space as was the case in the first leg where the Cranes came from 10-0 down to head to the break leading 18-10 before Simbas stormed back for the triumph.
Stand-in skipper Mukidza led from the front by hauling his side back to take the match with Cranes seemingly cruising to a shock win.
The captain who took the armband from the injure Wilson Kopondo intervened with two perfectly taken penalties, adding to a converted try from Martin Owila and to hand Simbas a five-point advantage at the final hooter.
The Cranes preparations for the second leg have been rocked by the furore from players and fans after the squad was paid a paltry USh150,000 (KSh5,000) in allowances for the game.
That will however, not prevent them from rousing themselves against the old enemy.