Willy Ambaka will make his test debut after making the Simbas starting line up for Saturday’s Rugby Africa Gold Cup tie against visiting Tunisia at the RFUEA Ground. The former LOU Rugby, Western Province and Manawatu man is a regular fixture for Kenya’s Sevens team, Shujaa, in addition to being a household name on the Sevens World Series and will start on the wing as the Simbas seek to build on their three-match winning streak in this tournament which also serves as the African qualifying round for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Ambaka comes in for Felix Ayange who is rested for this encounter.
Head Coach Ian Snook, commenting on Ambaka’s selection, said, ” Willy spoke to me after the Uganda game and indicated his interest so Roly and I did some research with Manawatu in NZ where he had played previously and the reports were extremely positive. We watched a bit of footage in the Manawatu colours and decided he would fit in well to this group. Now he has a chance to show how good he can be in XV’s and we wish him all the best.”
Ambaka is one of only two changes to the side that started the 38-22 home win over Uganda at the same venue on Saturday 7 July 2018, the other being Martin Owilah who starts ahead of George Nyambua at blindside.
Speaking on this change, Snook said, “This is a reward for Martin for consistently high levels at training and when coming off the bench in previous games. The three selectors. myself, Charles Ngovi and Dominique Habibana all were of the same opinion that he deserved this opportunity. It is a strong position in the team as George Nyambua has been playing really well and has been one of our consistently best forwards. However, this is a team of 35, not 15, and we are still sorting out a squad who would be capable of performing well at the World Cup should the team make it that far.”
Commenting on Tunisia and his expectations from Saturday’s encounter, Snook said, ” I know they beat Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe ran us close. I have seen their other results and watched their games so I know it will be a physical game which will take the normal 100% effort from the boys. Tunisia have been in town all week so will have had plenty of time to fine-tune things and be well prepared.”
Snook also praised his team’s character over the length of the Gold Cup, saying, ” In a short time-frame and with no warm-up games at any stage, the character of the players has shone through with three hard-earned wins from three games. In each game, we have been under pressure at various times and on each occasion, the team have made good decisions and performed well at the vital times. Many players have performed really well and there is a strong squad coming together. Lots of hard work has been paying off.”
Simbas squad to face Tunisia
15. Vincent Mose (Resolution Impala Saracens), 14. William Ambaka (Kenya Harlequin)*, 13. Peter Kilonzo (KCB), 12. Darwin Mukidza (KCB), 11. Jacob Ojee (KCB), 10. Isaac Adimo (Kenya Harlequin), 9. Samson Onsomu (Resolution Impala Saracens), 1. Patrick Ouko (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), 2. Colman Were (Kabras Sugar), 3. Joseph Odero (Kabras Sugar), 4. Andrew Chogo (Kabras Sugar), 5. Oliver Mang’eni (KCB), 6. Martin Owilah (KCB), 7. Elkeans Musonye (Strathmore Leos), 8. Davis Chenge (KCB/Captain)
REPLACEMENTS 16. Peter Karia (KCB), 17. Moses Amusala (KCB), 18. Hillary Mwanjilwa (Kabras Sugar), 19.Malcolm Onsando (Kenya Harlequin), 20. George Nyambua (Kabras Sugar), 21. Mohamed Omollo, 22. Maxwell Kang’eri (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), 23. Tony Onyango (Menengai Cream Homeboyz)