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Fireworks expected as Kenya Cup enters semis stage

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Fireworks are expected on Saturday as the 2017/2018 Kenya Cup rugby league season enters the semi-finals stage in Nairobi.

Champions Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) will be seeking their first victory against Impala Saracens in three years in the Kenya Cup when they face-off at the KCB Ruaraka grounds while Homeboyz scent revenge they take on Kabras Sugar at the Jamhuri Park showground.

KCB, who are gunning for their sixth Kenya Cup success, topped the regular season unbeaten in 11 outings while Homeboyz, who are chasing their maiden Cup victory, finished second to all earn automatic semi-final slots.

Eleven-time champions Impala Saracens, who last won the title in 2009, silenced Kenya Harlequin 34-18 while the 2016 winners Kabras Sugar edged out Strathmore Leos 43-13 in the play-offs to complete the semi-finals line-up.

KCB last beat Impala 22-3 in Kenya Cup on the Jamhuri Day of 2014, making today’s battle interesting especially with Sarries having dominated the bankers in subsequent outings.

Their last Kenya Cup encounter in their last match in the regular season on March 3 ended in a 9-9 draw with their kicking kingpins Darwin Mukidza (KCB) and Mark Kwemoi (Impala) drilling home three penalties each.

However, KCB beat the Sarries in the Impala Floodlit final in November last year where the bankers snatched a slim 18-17 victory.

Impala coach Frank Ndong’ said he won’t bank on past performances noting that KCB, who are a good knockout stage team, will come hard on them after the draw.

“They watched our game against Quins and spotted our weaknesses but we are ready to weather the storm and neutralise their forwards,” Ndong’ said. “Their forwards give their backs a superb platform and that is what we want to disrupt.”

MOSE RETURNS

Ndong’ will have influential utility back Vincent Mose, Derrick Mayar and Michael Gitau back to replace Ian Minjire, Samuel Motari and Eric Kerre respectively while his KCB counterpart Curtis Olago has Kenya Sevens centre Arthur Owira at his disposal.

“We respect Impala since they are an all-round side. They are a quality side by virtue of reaching the semifinals,” said Olago.

Kabras and Homeboyz clash is a repeat of last year’s semi-final at the Jamhuri Park Show grounds where the sugar millers prevailed 23-18. Homeboyz beat Kabras Sugar 28-6 during the regular season on February 3 this year.

CHISANGA TO START

Returning Joshua Chisanga and Augustine Lugonzo will replace Davis Imbuchi and Kevin Masai in the Homeboyz side that also has Max Kangeri. “We have been to the semis before and it’s upon us to take the next step to the final step,” said Homeboyz coach Paul Murunga.

Forwards Hosea Ngesa and Steve Oluoch will get to start for Kabras, replacing Steven Ochieng and Kelvin Kabole, who move to the bench. Kelvin Omiyo will also get to start with Nick Baraza making a return but to the bench.

“We won’t dwell on history since this is a different stage. We just need to improve on our executions and scoring rate when we get the opportunity,” said Kabras Sugar coach Charles Cardovillis ahead of their duel with the Deejays. “They have good forwards and backs hence a good battle is in the offing.”