Kenya Sevens star Willy Ambaka will make his Kenya 15s debut, finally, after being named to the right wing in the squad to face Tunisia in a fourth round Africa Gold Cup clash at the RFUEA grounds on Saturday 11 August starting 2pm.
Ambaka comes in for former Kenya Sevens back Felix Ayange who is rested for the game.
His inclusion is one of two changes the other being Martin Owilah who starts ahead of George Nyambua at blindside.
In recent years Ambaka has played professionally in the 15s game with Lyon Olympique Universitaire (LOU) in France, Western Province in South Africa and Manawatu Turbos in New Zealand and experiences gained then is what Coach Ian Snooker and his technical bench are adding to the formidable Simbas structure.
He turned out for the Kenya Sevens team in all ten legs of the 2017/18 Sevens World Series and was arguably the most outstanding player as he featured prominently in most leader-boards; tries (31), points (155), clean breaks (49) and runs (146).
He was the most featured player turning out in 54 of the 56 games played by Kenya sevens across the series. He was also in the squad that participated in commonwealth games and the recently concluded World Cup Rugby Sevens.
Ambaka had been considered for 15s assignments back in 2014 as Kenya, just like this time, were chasing a place in the World Cup in qualifiers held in Madagascar. He was however dropped due to an injury.
"Willy spoke to me after the Uganda game and indicated his interest so Roly and I did some research with Manawatu in NZ where he had played previously and the reports were extremely positive. We watched a bit of footage in the Manawatu colours and decided he would fit in well to this group.Now he has a chance to show how good he can be in XV’s and we wish him all the best.” said head coach Snook as quoted by KRU Media
On Owillah he said; "This is a reward for Martin for consistently high levels at trainings and when coming off the bench in previous games. The three selectors. myself, Charles Ngovi and Dominique Habibana all were of the same opinion that he deserved this opportunity.It is a strong position in the team as George Nyambua has been playing really well and has been one of our consistently best forwards. However, this is a team of 35, not 15, and we are still sorting out a squad who would be capable of performing well at the World Cup should the team make it that far.”
Save for the two changes, other players took up their positions with Patrick Ouko, Coleman Were and Joseph Adero at front row. Andrew Chogo and Oliver Mangeni at lock add up to complete the tight five.
Experienced Vincent Mose is at full back with KCB flyer Jacob Ojee playing on the opposite wing of newcomer Ambaka. Kicker per excellence Darwin Mukidza maintains his new found space at inside centre and will play with club mate Peter Kilonzo in that midfield as Samson Onsomu and Isaac Adimo take up their regular half back roles at scrum and fly half, respectively.
Big unit Davies Chenge will skipper the side from the base of the scrum with powerman Elkeans Musonye completing the squad as openside flanker.
The bench is impactful with flyer Tony Onyango, Peter Karia, George Nyambua, Hillary Mwanjilwa, Malcolm Onsando, Mohammed Omolo, Max Kangeri and Moses Amusala all named to it.
Kenya Simbas head to this game placed second in the six-nation Africa Gold Cup cum 2019 World Cup qualification table with 12 points after straight wins over Morocco, Zimbabwe and Uganda while Tunisia is placed fourth with four points gained from a rare home win over Zimbabwe.
They arrive for the game licking wounds from a 67-12 beating by Uganda last weekend in Kampala which added on to their 118-0 flattening by Namibia in their opening game in Windhoek.
Kenya Simbas squad
15. Vincent Mose (Resolution Impala Saracens), 14.William Ambaka (Kenya Harlequin)*, 13. Peter Kilonzo (KCB), 12. Darwin Mukidza (KCB), 11. Jacob Ojee (KCB), 10. Isaac Adimo (Kenya Harlequin), 9.Samson Onsomu (Resolution Impala Saracens), 1.Patrick Ouko (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), 2.Colman Were (Kabras Sugar), 3. Joseph Odero (Kabras Sugar), 4. Andrew Chogo (Kabras Sugar), 5.Oliver Mang’eni (KCB), 6. Martin Owilah (KCB), 7.Elkeans Musonye (Strathmore Leos), 8. Davis Chenge (KCB/Captain)
REPLACEMENTS 16. Peter Karia (KCB), 17. Moses Amusala (KCB), 18. Hillary Mwanjilwa (Kabras Sugar), 19.Malcolm Onsando (Kenya Harlequin), 20. George Nyambua (Kabras Sugar), 21. Mohamed Omollo, 22. Maxwell Kang’eri (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), 23. Tony Onyango (Menengai Cream Homeboyz)