By Benard Mulwa
The Kenya Rugby Union board of Directors led by Mr. Alexander Mutai the Chairman and Mr. John Kilonzo in charge of women rugby has today unveiled the names of the Shujaa and Lionesses squads that will be in action at the first round of the World Rugby HSBC Challenger 2024 from 12-14 January in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Mwamba’s Brian Mutugi (pictured above) is set for his second appearance in Shujaa colors after being named in the 12 man squad for the opening round of the World Rugby HSBC Challenger 2024
Mutugi, who debuted during the Safari 7s, is the only change from the side that secured victory and Paris 2024 Olympic qualification with a 17-12 cup final win over South Africa in the Rugby Africa Men’s 7s last September in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Vincent Onyala and Anthony Omondi co-captain the side who will play out of Pool C.
The team starts with a clash against Mexico at 13:14 EAT on Friday, January 12, 2024 before taking on East African rivals Uganda at 17:58 EAT. They will conclude their Pool C campaign against Germany at 12:59 EAT on Saturday, January 13, 2024.
Commenting on the side’s preparations, Head Coach Kevin Wambua told KRU Media, “Our training sessions leading up to the Christmas break were highly productive, emphasizing skill enhancement and the development of effective attack and defense strategies. Despite a setback in early December when we were unable to participate in the Dubai event, we utilized internal games to refine our performance based on the valuable insights gained from the Safari 7s evaluation.
The competitive atmosphere within the squad has proven to be both robust and constructive, pushing each team member to bring their best to the forefront and contributing to an overall improvement in team dynamics. The recent three-day camp at Turi was instrumental in further elevating our preparedness. The choice of Turi was strategic, taking advantage of the high-altitude weather to better acclimate ourselves for the upcoming tournament in Dubai.
As we approach the competition, our focus is on taking each game as it comes, with the ultimate goal of securing a podium position. Given that the Challenger series consists of four legs, a strong start in the first leg is pivotal. This not only builds confidence within the team but also alleviates pressure for subsequent tournaments. Our target is clear – to establish ourselves early on and maintain a competitive edge throughout the series,” he concluded.
Shujaa squad to Dubai
Vincent Onyala (KCB, Co-Captain), Tony Omondi (Mwamba, Co-Captain), Brian Tanga (Kabras Sugar),Kevin Wekesa (Kabras Sugar), John Okoth (Menengai Oilers), Samuel Asati (KCB), Nygel Amaitsa (Strathmore Leos), Festus Shiasi (KCB), William Mwanji (Kabras Sugar), George Ooro (Strathmore Leos), Patrick Odongo (Daystar Falcons), Brian Mutugi (Mwamba) MANAGEMENT: Kevin Wambua (Head Coach), Louis Kisia (Assistant Coach), Andrew Amonde (Assistant Coach), Lamech Francis Bogonko (Physio), Steve Sewe (Team Manager)
Sheila Chajira is back in the Lionesses squad to the World Rugby HSBC Challenger 2024.
Chajira was part of the Lionesses squad that reached the final of the Safari 7s, in what was her first appearance for the sevens national team since the Tokyo Olympics in August 2021.
Grace Okulu captains that side that seeks to secure qualification to the 2025 HSBC SVNS at the close of this campaign.
Lionesses Sevens Head Coach Dennis Mwanja spoke to Kenya Rugby about the upcoming assignment.
Mwanja, a former Shujaa skipper touched on the team’s preparations, expectations and selection criteria.
Preparation for Dubai Event
“Our transition from fifteens to sevens has been a rewarding journey, and the team has made significant strides in improvement. As we gear up for Dubai, the combination of youthful energy and seasoned experience within our squad is promising, creating an atmosphere of enthusiasm and anticipation for the upcoming challenge next weekend.”
Lionesses’ Tournament Approach
“Taking a measured approach, we are approaching the tournament one game at a time. A thorough analysis of our opponents reveals their worth, but our team is grounded in self-belief and quietly confident in our capabilities. Our focus on staying fresh, being fully prepared, and maintaining a hunger for victory will be the key factors that carry us through the competition.”
Squad Selection Criteria
“In assembling our squad, we considered a blend of experience, current form, and maturity on the field. Striking a delicate balance between youthful vigor, seasoned expertise, and leadership qualities was paramount. It is upon this combination that we place our trust to deliver the desired results in the upcoming event.”
The Lionesses, participating in Pool B of the women’s competition, will kick off their campaign with a match against China at 11:36 EAT on Friday, January 12, 2024.
Subsequently, they will go head-to-head with Czechia at 15:58 EAT on the same day. The Lionesses will wrap up their pool fixtures against Mexico at 10:59 EAT on Saturday, January 13.
Lionesses squad to Dubai
Grace Okulu (Captain), Stella Wafula, Maureen Muritu, Phoebe Akinyi, Naomi Amuguni, Christabel Lindo, Sheila Chajira, Judy Okumu, Sinaida Nyachio, Sharon Auma, Diana Awino,Janet Okello, Diana Kemunto MANAGEMENT: Dennis Mwanja (Head Coach), Paul Murunga (Assistant Coach), Jeff Onyango (Assistant Coach), Levis Kituyi (Physio), Camyline Oyuayo (Team Manager)