A blow by blow look at each of the 14 teams taking part in the new Kenya Cup league season
The 2014/2015 Kenya Cup season kicks off on Saturday 8 November 2014
The top three play-off places have in the past two seasons been dominated by Top Fry Nakuru, KCB and Pan Africa Strathmore Leos with the fourth one being fought out by a host of teams and it will very likely be the same scenario heading into the new season with more teams pushing harder for domestic success.
Some teams will be aiming for the title, some teams will just be hoping to just stay in the top flight
TOP FRY NAKURU
The Wanyore were last season’s deserved champions and come into this season as very strong contenders for a third successive title. With a plethora of talent across the field, the next step for Dominique Habimana’s side is join Nondies, Impala, Quins and KCB in the elite group of clubs that have lifted the Kenya Cup three or more times in succession.
With players such as Isaiah Nyariki, Edwins Makori, Mike Okombe,Martin Owillah, Nick Lang’o and Philip Kwame in the forwards and a back line that features the likes of Martin Muita, Javan Murayi, Edwin Okemwa, Kelvin Omiyo to name but a few, the side from Nakuru look ominous.
The Lions were perpetual bridesmaids last term, playing second fiddle to Nakuru in the league, falling to a 20-13 loss in the final as they failed in their bid to lift a fourth Kenya Cup after threepeat success between 2005 and 2007. They also lost 18-13 to the same opponent in last season’s Enterprise Cup final.
With a good sprinkling of talent and depth across the board, it’s fair to say that KCB have a very strong squad and will have the belief and confidence to make a push for a first title since 2007..
Retired backrow forwards Anthony Ogot and Dennis Mwanja didn’t quite get the golden handshakes they would have loved last season but the acquisition of backrow forward Elly Mukaizi from Mean Machine gives the bankers an interesting dimension, given his work rate and ball getting ability particularly at the break down.
PAN AFRICA STRATHMORE LEOS
Pan Africa Strathmore Leos will be hoping to reach a third successive league semi final , setting up a platform to qualify for the championship match on March 7. In order to do so, they will have to finish in the top four at the close of the league phase on February 21.
They have their work cut out and will be keen to put the pressure on the league’s top two sides as per last years performances (Nakuru and KCB) while staving off the attentions of a chasing pack who all have their eyes trained on semi final qualification.
The experience of Malik Ndemi, Kenny Andola, Tony Owuor, Charles Omondi fused with the exuberance of Sammy Motari, Churchill Ooko, Adrian Opondo and company will be of utmost importance for Mitch Ocholla’s charges.
LUNCH BAR QUINS
Lunch Bar Quins will be among those sides looking to reach the Kenya Cup semi-finals at the close of the league phase. Joel Ng’ang’a’s side will look to set the pace and book a place in the last four, eventually launching a challenge for the title they last won in the 2011/2012 season.
Patrice Agunda will be a key player for the side this campaign, as will players like Tony Mutai, Wilson Kopondo, Dennis Muhanji and Kevin Keegan.
This side has enough talent and experience to challenge for the Kenya Cup and it will be interesting to see how they exert themselves during this campaign.
Unpredictable is the only word to describe Homeboyz last season. They are a tough nut to crack on their day but that day didn’t come as often as head coach Paul Murunga would’ve wanted and they eventually finished fifth, outside the playoff berths.
They come into the new season minus playmaker Augustine Lugonzo and back row man Joshua Chisanga who are both nursing long term injuries but “Pau” still has the likes of Oscar Ayodi and youngsters Mike Wanjala, Alvin Otieno, Humphrey Mulama and Kevin Ochami as well as Max Kang’eri. Harun Lubisia, Emmanuel Mavala to rely on as they look to push on into the semi final playoffs for the first time in their five year history.
Kulabu were unable to replicate their 2012/13 performance that saw them reach the semi final playoffs, finishing sixth overall. Despite that, there were a few notable positives for the black shirts, the ability to blood in a new crop of players led by the likes of Shaban Ahmed and Brian Kivasya and in the process easing pressure on the likes of Collins Injera, Horace Otieno and Lavin Asego
Head Coach Meli Wanibuli has since relocated with Mwamba old boy John Mbai taking over the reins at the Railway Club.
Mbai, a connoisseur of the game is tasked with making Mwamba a contender, not only for the semi finals but also for the overall title and with the talent and experience at his disposal, he sure will fancy his and Mwamba’s chances.
The 17 time Kenya Cup champions had a quiet season as evidenced by their seventh place positioning at the close of last season’s league phase. The red lion will have to be competitive all through the season, posting the results they require to finish in the leading quartet as they look to play Kenya Cup rugby beyond February 21.
This side which last won the Kenya Cup in 1998 has players like Joseph Wachira, Ronnie Mwenesi, Ben Nyambu, Joel Maingi, Biko Adema and Enock Makinga who will be key for them this term.
RESOLUTION IMPALA SARACENS
There is a silent air of optimism at the Impala Club, the Resolution Impala Saracens quietly fancying their chances of making the playoffs after falling off the contenders radar in recent years.
Head Coach Erick Situma has in his ranks some exciting young talent such as Sammy Oliech, Ian Minjire, Lameck Dunde, Warren Nyanjom as well as experienced heads in Nato Simiyu, Paul Oimbo, Davis Makori, Joel Omer and Michael Mugo they will certainly be fired up, looking to express themselves on the pitch as they seek to spark off an Impala renaissance.
The side from Kakamega only made their top tier debut two seasons ago and have set in place structures to enable them compete with the favorites this campaign.
Echulusi have brought on board former Ugandan international Brian Makalama as Head Coach as they look to challenge for the title. Makalama has at his disposal a number of players such as the iconic Bramwell Shikanda, Duncan Abuyeka, Davis Chenge, Henry Omindo, Elkins Musonye and Cyrus Kuya to name but a few and he will look to drill his charges into an outfit capable of challenging for the title.
Mean Machine were placed tenth last season, three wins and ten losses the sum total of their thirteen outings, a far cry from their days that saw them ranked among the top club sides in the country.
Back to reality and the side now under the tutelage of former Mwamba back row Paul Oketch will be tasked with being competitive this season. They gave a good account of themselves at the recent Impala Floodlit tournament, reaching the club semifinal.
Oketch will surely count on players such as Kelvin Gacheru, Elphas Manya, Stanley Lunani and Kevin Njugi as he seeks to guide his side to a mid table finish at best.
Blak Blad did just enough last season to stay in the Kenya Cup and come into the 2014/2015 campaign tasked to maintain their top tier status. This will ideally be attained by targeting at least three wins and they will fancy their chances against Mombasa, Mean Machine and the newly promoted duo of Kabras Sugar and Catholic Monks.
The side from Kenyatta University will have to cope with the loss of talismanic backrow forward Rocky Aguko to Resoluition Impala Saracens but Head Coach Michael “Tank” Otieno, a three time Kenya Cup winner with KCB between 2005 and 2007 will look to the likes of Reuben Moegi and Polycarp Mbai to inspire the side during this campaign.
MOMBASA SPORTS CLUB
Mombasa Sports Club, Enterprise Cup champions in 1997, survived the chop last season barely just and enter the new campaign faced with the recurring challenge of retaining their top tier status.
Coach Nills Achayo must ensure that the only side from Kenya’s second largest city are competitive on every match day and he will count on the likes of Chris Atingo, Sydney Akhasamba, Said Kenya, Welland Mugani, and Dalton Mwajulu to turn out inspiring performances week in, week out.
Ambitious best describes Kabras Sugar. In only their second year of existence, the team from the Western Kenya city of Kakamega are already playing in the top tier after winning the second tier Nationwide League last season. They, together with the Catholic Monks replaced Kisumu and Eldoret who were relegated after propping the Kenya Cup off shambolic campaigns last season.
And in a bid to be competitive and impact positively during the forthcoming season, the team has embarked on an aggressive recruitment drive. Following promotion, Head Coach Arthur Shikwe has beefed up his squad with several big name signings, the most notable being Kenyan internationals Nick Barasa and Edwin Achayo from Lunch Bar Quins. Other players who have joined the league debutantes include Dennis Mukabi, Perminus Macharia, Geoffrey Meso and Steve Oluoch from KCB as well as Ugandans Cyrus Watum, Charles Uhuru and Jasper Ochen.
The challenge for Kabras’ will be getting the new signings to gel. Survival is top of the agenda for Shikwe’s men although they have signed decent players capable of steering the side well clear of the drop zone.
The Catholic Monks are also making their Kenya Cup debut and Head Coach Simon Jawichre has already indicated that top tier survival tops the priority list of the side from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.
They were runners up in the Nationwide league last season, losing the second tier championship match to Kabras Sugar but still securing their ticket to the big league.
The Monks lack the financial muscle of Kabras Sugar and will have to rely on the squad that earned promotion. They will be without James Kilonzo who has since decamped to join his brother Peter at KCB but will still rely on the likes of Foster Isiche, Harrison Asena, Elly Ojwang and former Stormers and Impala Saracens player Dominic “Gaucho” Mose as they look to put in performances that will see them remain in the Kenya Cup next season.
– Michael Kwambo