Kenya v Uganda in the Elgon Cup at RFUEA Grounds, Nairobi (2018). Credit: APO Group

It has been a rather surprising turn of events in sport when Uganda and Kenya met this year, specifically in rugby.

The two East African nations have met three times so far – in the Rugby Africa U20 (boys) Barthes Trophy in Nairobi, and the men’s and women’s Rugby Africa Sevens Cups in Kampala and Jemmal respectively.

As it stands, Uganda have an unprecedented 2-1 lead against Kenya owing to a double triumph in the Sevens Cups which left the Kenyan fraternity in shock and yearning for a comeback.

Which brings us to the Rugby Africa Men’s Cup quarterfinals in France. What was always going to be a tight contest at the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification tournament has become a do-or-die affair for both teams.

Kenya wants to avenge the losses and reclaim their top spot as East Africa’s strongest rugby nation while Uganda wants to prove that the earlier victories were no fluke.

Speaking to Kenyan publication The Star after arrival in France, Kenya Simbas captain Daniel Sikuta termed the tie as a final before the final, a must-win.

“It’s a tough derby game against our neighbours. They are physical and we will want to win,” said Sikuta.

Coach Paul Odera shared the same sentiments at the squad announcement last week on Friday.

His counterpart Fred Mudoola, speaking to the Daily Monitor newspaper at the official flag-off event felt the largely-private training the Rugby Cranes did will be enough for the huge task ahead.

“They (Kenya) have prepared well but we have also done our part in the last three months. We feel it is enough to enable us to compete,” Mudoola said.

While Kenya played up to nine matches in the South African Currie Cup, Uganda only had three trial matches among themselves and against the U20 boys before flying out of the country.

But captain Ivan Magomu remains confident that they will overcome their rivals come Saturday afternoon.

“As we were training, we were also keeping an eye on our opponents,” revealed Magomu.

Three years have passed since the two countries played against each other. This was during the 2019 Elgon Cup return leg at Kyadondo Rugby Club where Kenya won 16-05 to overturn a slim 16-13 loss in Kisumu and defend the title for the fifth time.

While this year’s crunch tie in France is not the Elgon Cup, it has not in any way diminished the rivalry between the two nations.

Additionally, there are World Rugby Rankings to play for in Aix-en-Provence.

With victory, Uganda could gain up to ten places from 52nd while Kenya could drop up to three places depending on margins and other results.

A win for Kenya lifts them three places up from 35th, depending on their win margin and what happens between Zimbabwe and Cote d’Ivoire.

Kickoff will be at 4 p.m. EAT. The match will be broadcast live on different stations and streamed online too for the fans to watch across the world.

The matchday squads have not yet been revealed by both unions.

Ernest Akorebirungi is an amateur rugby player and a keen follower of local Ugandan rugby.

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