Kenya’s Lionesses have had four matches since the original RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament play-off against Colombia was postponed back in April 2020. And despite losing every encounter head coach Felix Oloo says the mood is upbeat ahead of Wednesday’s rearranged test.
The Lionesses can book their place at the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament if they beat Colombia in Nairobi on Wednesday.
Much of the optimism stems from their last outing a week ago, where a much-changed and much-improved side were narrowly beaten 29-22 by South Africa, having lost to the same opposition 66-0 four days earlier. This followed on from back-to-back defeats to Madagascar in July.
Olympians Grace Adhiambo Okulu, Christabel Lindo, Philadelphia Orlando, Camilla Atieno and Janet Okello were five of the 11 new faces in the rejuvenated Lionesses starting line-up and are likely to play a significant role against Colombia.
“The first test was all about getting new players in the system and preparing them to take up their positions in the near future. It was really good for them to have the feeling of being a national team player and to get an understanding of what test rugby is like,” explained Oloo.
“For the second test we tried to balance out the two sides and it came out very well.
“The mindset beforehand was perhaps that this is a big team, this is the Springboks … we can’t beat them. But that has disappeared now. They got a lot of confidence from the game; they now know that anything is possible.
“We lost our heads in the last 10 minutes and had we taken our chances, we believe we’d have won the game. Sadly, our finishing wasn’t on-point and we also had issues with our kicking patterns.”
If successful, Kenya will compete with sides from Europe, Asia and Oceania (Samoa) for the last ticket to Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand, which has been rescheduled for next year.
“Getting beaten (by South Africa) was probably a blessing in disguise because it creates more hunger amongst the players leading up to the Colombia game which is the one that we have to win,” Oloo said.
“We believe we are moving in the right direction.”
Kenya will need big performances from the likes of back-row duo, Olympians Sheila Chajira and Leah Wambui if they are to keep their Rugby World Cup dream alive.
Colombia are physically bigger but if Kenya can match them upfront, the athleticism of their sevens players could be the deciding factor.
“They have very big forwards so we are working hard to see how we can neutralise them in this area and use that to our advantage,” Oloo said.
“We know their strengths and they know our strengths as well and both of us are working hard to see who can out-smart the other.
“We are going all out to play our very best until the final whistle.”