NAIROBI, Kenya- Kenya Simbas head coach, Jerome Paarwater, is leaving nothing to chance after naming a strong starting XV for their Regal Hotels Cup of Nations opener against Chile in Hong Kong with the team playing in honour of talented back-row, Michael Shitindo Okombe who passed on last weekend.
Playing under the banner #SimbaNiOkombe, Simbas will be keen on a strong start in their bid to deliver the trophy in memory of the 17-time capped player who was slain in Nakuru.
Speaking at the official unveiling of the tournament at Kings Park Ground in Hong Kong on Thursday, Simbas captain Wilson Kopondo, said the squad was fired up to give a roaring performance their departed colleague would have been proud of.
“We are doing this for Okombe and aiming for the big Cup and doing it for the man himself…Mike Okombe. We have the motivation but we are facing quality opposition and are looking forward to a big tournament. We should have a good go,” Kopondo stated.
The skipper acknowledged it was an honour for Kenya to line up at the invitational tournament alongside Chile, Russia and Hong Kong.
“The hard work we’ve put in over the past couple of weeks and the will to fight it out is what sees us here. We’ve prepared well enough for this and should have a good go at it,” he added.
Kopondo who will be partnered by Oliver Mang’eni in second row while celebrated Nato Simiyu will start at fly half where he will pair up with Sam Onsomu. George Nyambu will start ahead of Eric Kerre in the blindside.
Other notables in the starting XV includes Tony Onyango and the Africa Gold Cup top scorer, Darwin Mukidza.
The trusted boot of Mukidza, the man who has had the longest run without being substituted in the team until August will be relied to add the points on the board from drop kicks, penalties and conversions.
Paarwaters said he is contented with the named squad which he believes will deliver him victory in the clash that starts at 12 noon East African Time (+3GMT).
“Chile is a tough side but I am confident of victory, we have trained well, we are hoping for good results here,” Paarwaters remarked.
The South African boss admitted he is wary of double champions Russia who he said would be Kenya’s greatest challenge in the tournament.
“They have some of the strongest players, they have won this tournament twice so their level of experience is so vast. We will be cautious while approaching their tackles,” he said.
15. Tony Onyango, 14. Darwin Mukidza, 13. David Ambunya, 12. Leo Seje, 11. Jacob Ojee, 10. Nato Simiyu, 9. Samson Onsomu, 1. Moses Amusala, 2. Peter Karia, 3. Curtis Lilako, 4. Wilson Kopondo (captain), 5. Oliver Mang’eni, 6. George Nyambua, 7. Davis Chenge, 8. Joshua Chisanga
16. Philip Ikambili, 17. Oscar Simiyu, 18. Dennis Karani, 19. Eric Kerre, 20. Lyle Asiligwa, 21. Biko Adema, 22. Peter Kilonzo, 23. Vincent Mose