Kenya Simbas and Uganda Rugby Cranes renew their longstanding rivalry dating back to nine decades when they clash in the decisive Elgon Cup duel on Saturday at Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium, Kisumu.
Uganda Cranes stunned defending champions Simba 21-20 in the first leg that doubled up as the Victoria Cup final on Sunday at the Kings Park Arena in Kampala.
Elgon Cup was played last in 2019 when the Simbas retained the crown with a hard-fought 16-5 victory in Kampala, overturning the first leg’s 16-13 defeat in Kisumu.
Kenya has dominated the championship that started in 2004, winning 12 titles against Rugby Cranes’ three. Rugby Cranes last won the title back in 2015.
Kenya and Uganda have a long history of rugby matches going back to 1934 before the first official match was played in 1958.
According to statistics provided by Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), the battle between Kenya and Uganda actually dates back to 1934 when the two nations faced off at Entebbe Sports Club, Uganda though the match results were not captured.
The game is remembered since Kenya arrived in a white kit with Uganda also donning similar colours. Uganda, who didn’t have another set were forced to improvise as their kit was dyed black.
In the long established tradition in rugby, it is the duty of the home side to change shirts in the event of a clash.
With the clubhouse about 16 kilometres from Kampala, Uganda resorted to dyeing their shirts in the water-bucket on the sideline using the iodine from the medical kit.
Uganda ended up playing the duel in a wet kit, which made it difficult for the spectators and referee to identify the sides as the game progressed. Uganda have since won the black jersey in their matches in memory of the match.
Kenya won the fixture against Uganda and many more that followed but the first official match between the two countries took place on May 24, 1958, when Kenya (then Kenya Colony) travelled to play Uganda (then Uganda Protectorate) in Kampala.
Fast forward, the match in Kisumu will mark their 29th Elgon Cup encounter between the two countries. Kenya Simbas have won 14, Kenya “A” two and Uganda 11 with one draw being registered.
In a nutshell, Uganda lifted the title in 2006, 2012 and 2015.
Elgon Cup fixtures were not played in 2005 owing to the men’s Rugby World Cup qualifiers and between 2020 to 2022 due to Covid-19.
There will be a lot to play for in Kisumu with Uganda, who lifted the Victoria Cup for the first time on Sunday, eying to recapture Elgon Cup. The Simbas lay in wait for revenge.
Kenya Simbas Captain George Nyambua reckoned that they lost in the first after they deviated from their technical bench’s strategies.
“We had a well-thought-out plan but fell short in our execution. We have addressed the breakdown areas that posed challenges for us,” said Nyambua.
Uganda Rugby Cranes skipper Ivan Magomu said the Victoria Cup victory should inspire them against the Simbas.
“I understand that playing against Kenya is always a formidable task especially after a slim win in the last encounter,” said Magomu.”The last time we were here in 2019, we emerged victorious, and I am optimistic that we can replicate that success.”
The Simbas have made five changes to see the return of Eugene Sifuna and Ephraim Oduor at hooker and loose head, replacing Wilhite Mususi and Teddy Akala.
Elekeans Musonye returns at openside flank after starting last Sunday’s from the bench. Paul Mutsami will operate from inside centre, partnering with Bryceson Adaka in midfield while Derrick Ashiundu returns to the wing, replacing Alfred Orege who will miss out due to an injury.
Jone Kubu and Brian Wahinya swap places in positional changes. Kubu starts at fly half with Wahinya moving to fullback.
Kenya Lionesses will be eying to seal their seventh Cup victory against Uganda She Cranes in the Women’s Elgon Cup battle. The Lionesses roared to 44-13 and 35-5 wins when the event was last played in 2019.