Twelve matches later and we are down to the final four at the 10th edition of the Bamburi Rugby Super Series. This year, the semi finals adopt a slight different structure. Contrary to previous years where both semi final matches were played at Nairobi’s RFUEA grounds, this year’s edition sees the semi final fixtures evenly spread between Nairobi and Kampala, adding a different twist to what are already intriguing fixtures, at least on paper. The four teams in action this weekend are the Lions, UAP Rhinos, Dimension Data Rwenzori and the SDV Transami Cheetahs.
We begin our preview in Nairobi where the 2008 champions Lions host the defending champions UAP Rhinos at the RFUEA grounds.
Lions v UAP Rhinos
Saturday 26 May 2012
RFUEA Grounds, Nairobi
Gate Charges Ksh 300
The last time these two sides met was in a Pool B fixture on Saturday 14 May 2011 at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru, the Rhinos beating the Lions 24-19 to book a semi final berth and send the big cats home. The Lions came through Pool A unscathed, finishing top courtesy of wins over the Coastal Bulls, Nguvu Sharks and the SDV Transami Cheetahs. Their reward for their table topping exploits? A semi final match up against the UAP Rhinos. They have been efficient in the run up to the semis, the leadership of Dennis Mwanja and Collins Injera complimented by the goal kicking exploits of Fabian Olando, Lavin Asego’s playmaking skills and Peter Mutai’s control and decision making when distributing ball from the set pieces and breakdowns.
They have managed to score an average of 28 points per game, conceding an average of 10 points per game, which tells a story about their offensive and defensive capabilities. This however is a winner take all scenario, and such situations have in the past proved to be no respecter of statistics. Lions coach Meli Wanibuli welcomes back Joseph Oriwo, Dennis Ombachi and Danny Sikuta who were part of the Kenyan team that reached the Roma Sevens final in Italy but will have to do without back row man Anthony Ogot who starts a one match ban after being cited following an incident during last weekend’s group game against the Cheetahs.
Last week, for a moment, Erick Situma’s Rhinos, five time winners of the Bamburi Rugby Super Series were on the opposite end of the scoreline against the Mumias Sugar Buffaloes during their final Pool B match at the Nakuru Athletic Club, rallying from an 18-15 score at half time to edge the plucky Buffaloes 25-18 and set up Saturday’s date with the Lions by virtue of finishing second in their pool. Admittedly, the Rhinos, five time champions, were slow off the mark in that one, but it sure served as a wake up call and they definitely take the game to the Lions as they seek to return to the finals for a sixth successive time since 2007. They have managed an average of 27 points per game, conceding an average of 14 points per game.
They will rely on the boot and playmaking of Eden Agero, the versatile half back comfortable playing at either nine or ten, loose forward Brian Nyikuli, Edwin Makori and Victor Sudi to carry them on the day. Dennis Muhanji was taken off during their match against the Buffaloes and is doubtful for this fixture as is scrum half Edwin Achayo.
A few match ups that should light up the match will be the front battle between Joel Ng’ang’a and Moses Amusala, Wilson Kopondo against Danny Sikuta at lock, Dennis Mwanja against Brian Nyikuli at back row, Peter Mutai probably up against Eden Agero or Edwin Achayo at number nine, Victor Sudi versus Collins Injera on the wing.
It goes without saying the fans at the RFUEA grounds have a match on their hands
Dimension Data Rwenzori v SDV Transami Cheetahs
Kampala Rugby Grounds, Kampala, Uganda
Hosts Dimension Data Rwenzori host the SDV Transami Cheetahs in a ground breaking match, ground breaking because this is the first ever BRSS semi final fixture being played outside its traditional venue at Nairobi’s RFUEA grounds. Rwenzori won Pool B with a 100% record, posting wins over the Mumias Sugar Buffaloes, the UAP Rhinos and local rivals KCB Victoria. Playing in Kampala, Rwenzori will not only look to home ground advantage but also the free scoring Steve Ogwete, current joint top try scorer with the Buffaloes Bram Shikanda on four tries, Anthony Kinene, Marvin Odongo and Justin Kimono will also be key for Rwenzori as they seek to go where no Ugandan side has gone by reaching a first ever Bamburi Rugby Super Series final.
The SDV Transami Cheetahs, champions in 2004 and 2006 were second in Pool A behind the Lions, winning two and losing one of their three pool fixtures. They make the journey to Kampala looking to return to a third successive final since 2010. Vincent Mose is their leading try and points scorer and will be key to the side’s success in Kampala. Kenya number eight Lawi Buyachi will also be a vital player for the Cheetahs who will whoever have to do without winger Les Ochieng who is banned for the rest of the tournament after being found guilty of stamping Lions winger Darwin Mukidza last weekend.
As mentioned earlier, Rwenzori will bank on their good run, and home ground advantage as they dream of making the trip to Nairobi to compete for the 2012 Bamburi Rugby Super Series crown but must be wary of the Cheetahs, beaten finalists the past two years. Kampala fans are in for a quality game of rugby.
BRSS Semi Final Saturday
Lions v UAP Rhinos, RFUEA, Nairobi, 4.00pm
Dimension Data Rwenzori v SDV Transami Cheetahs, Kampala, Kampala,4.00pm