The Gold Cup started the same for all six nations but as we head into the final weekend, Kenya and Namibia have set themselves apart from the rest and they will battle it out for who takes the trophy home, and more importantly, who advances to the Rugby World Cup in Japan automatically.
The winner of the Gold Cup is assured of a place in Group B through automatic qualification as Africa 1 alongside defending champions New Zealand, African giants South Africa and Italy. Coincidentally, the winner of the repechage tournament qualifier joins the teams in Group B; and it could be another African team as the runners up of the Gold Cup have a last qualification chance in the repechage tournament. The Global repechage takes place in November and it involves four countries fighting for arguably the last spot at the World Cup. Three teams are already confirmed for the repechage i.e. Canada, Germany and Hong Kong and the fourth will be the runners-up of the Gold Cup.
Will it be Kenya or Namibia to qualify automatically?
Kenya last tasted a win over Namibia in 2014, which was coincidentally a Gold Cup tournament that doubled as World Cup qualification, as is the case with this year’s tournament. Kenya would fail to make it to the World Cup finals in England as they lost the last Gold Cup game of 2014, 10-27 to Zimbabwe as Namibia made easy work of Madagascar, winning 89-10. Since the loss to Kenya, Namibia has been undefeated in the Gold Cup accruing a run of 17 games. Will it be Kenya to stop them?
Kenya has had to leak in lots of points i.e. 22 against Uganda, 26 against Zimbabwe and 24 against Morocco. Tunisia are the only side not to pierce through the Simbas defense. On the other hand, Namibia leaked 6 against Uganda, 7 against Morocco and 28 against Zimbabwe. Tunisia, again, failed to get through another team’s defense, this time-Namibia. The Namibian wall is the most cohesive in the tournamnet while Kenya have been known to be complacent, majorly in the second period. Namibia has almost double (45) Kenya’s tries (26) on top of recording the biggest victory this year; 118-00 against Tunisia.
Between the last time Kenya beat Namibia and now, when the two have met, Kenya has managed 41 points against Namibia’s 147 over three games. The statistics are not in Kenya’s favor.
Just like any sport, statistics fly out of the widow when the action starts. Kenya are already camped in Windhoek and going through their paces. Only four players are still with the Simbas squad that defeated Namibia four years ago and that includes current skipper, Davis Chenge. Kenya will be bouyed by the inclusion of Shujaa speedstar William Ambaka who scored a brace on his 15-a-side debut for the national team.