Kenya can beat Namibia?
WORLD CUP NEWS: Kenya must scale new heights if they hope to overtake leaders Namibia and qualify for a maiden Rugby World Cup, coach Ian Snook admitted.
The nations meet in a winners-take-all match Saturday in Windhoek with the Namibians hot favourites to secure a sixth consecutive trip to the four-yearly world rugby showcase.
Namibia need only draw to remain first while Kenya must win to join defending champions New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and the repechage winners in Pool B in Japan next year.
However, all will not be lost for the runners-up as they go into a repechage tournament with Canada, Germany and Hong Kong, and the overall winners also go the 2019 finals in Japan.
Namibia have 20 points and Kenya 17 after four rounds of round-robin play in the six-nation African qualifying competition, which concludes this weekend.
Kenya have traditionally come up short against Namibia and New Zealander Snook acknowledged that his team have yet to show the form needed to succeed in Windhoek.
“The boys will have to play much better than in the four previous qualifiers to have any chance of success,” he admitted to reporters.
“However, I believe my team are capable of scaling new heights and winning the match in Namibia.
“I am expecting them to be ready for an 80-minute effort and look forward to the match with great anticipation,”
Snook conceded that being consistently good throughout a match has been problematic for Kenya, despite victories over Morocco, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Tunisia.
“My boys have played really well for short spells of matches, but we have not been consistently good, so raising our game in Namibia is essential.
“This is a do-or-die game for us against opponents who have won all their matches with bonus points, but I am confident that we can do it.”
Snook has recalled three forwards – Dalmus Chituyi, Felix Ayange and Curtis Lilako – for the match at a stadium named after current Namibia state president Hage Geingob.
Namibia also have a foreign coach, former Wales forward Phil Davies, and he believes the pitch conditions will encourage fast, running rugby.
“The pitch will be nice and dry, favouring running rugby. It promises to be a fantastic occasion that will make everyone connected with African rugby proud.
“We have great respect for Kenya and all of us are very much looking forward to the big challenge that lies ahead.”
Asked about the pace of the Kenyans, many of whom have sevens rugby experience, Davies said quick players are a threat in any side.
“We also have a lot of fast players, but it is all about Namibia playing as a strong collective unit and matching the talented Kenyans.”
At the other end of the table, Tunisia, Zimbabwe and Morocco are fighting to avoid relegation from the top tier of African rugby and be replaced by Algeria or Zambia.
Third-place Uganda host Zimbabwe in Kampala and Tunisia have home advantage over bottom side Morocco in Monastir.