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Sample spicy bits that make rugby tick

The Kenya Cup League was founded in 1970 and is the most prestigious trophy at club level. Over the years, it has grown in size and stature, feeding national teams with some of the continent’s best players.

Nondescripts RFC is the oldest team in Kenya at 90 years. After  formation of the then Rugby Football Union of Kenya, Nairobi District team was split into two, Nondescripts RFC and the defunct Harlequins RFC that folded in 1945.

Impala RFC (formerly Old Cambrians) and Eldoret RFC are the second and third oldest having been formed in 1931 but separated by months. They were followed by Kenya Harlequin  in 1951.

The youngest club in the league is Western Bulls, which came into being in 2011. The team is in its second season in the Kenya Cup. The other relatively new club is Homeboyz that was formed in 2009.

The team first competed in the 2009 National Sevens Circuit, before winning the 2010 and 2011 Eric Shirley Shield titles to earn promotion to the Kenya Cup.

Despite the competitiveness of the league, only eight teams out of 14 have won honours.

Nondies carry the day with 16 titles and Impala are second with 10. Kenya Harlequins follow with eight titles, while KCB and Mean Machine have each won thrice. Defunct Barclays Bank and Nakuru have clinched a title apiece.

Some teams have stood out over the years by achieving rare feats in their title hunt.

Mean Machine was the first club formed by indigenous Kenyans in 1977, giving rugby a new dimension.

Machine is the brainchild of Absalom Bimbo Mutere, Tom Oketch, Cliff Mukulu, Ben Mukuria and other students of the University of Nairobi. They won the Kenya Cup that year and gave a chance to black players who didn’t want to join the white-dominated teams.

A year later after most Machine players had completed university; they regrouped and formed a club for black players – Mwamba. Among the founders were Mutere and Oketch.

Other game changers are Nakuru, which became the first team from outside Nairobi to clinch the 2012-2013 Kenya Cup title.

In sports two factors are bound to breed rivalry – competition and neighbours. The Kenya Cup is chock-a-block with such rivalries.

Perhaps the most talked about is the Ngong Road hate triangle involving Impala, Quins and Nondies. The teams are neighbours and have been going at each other’s throats before the Kenya Cup league was formed.

However, in recent years, Quins has been the most successful of the three, with Impala and Quins slipping off the radar.

While Impala are languishing in position 12 in the standings this season, Nondies and Quins still stand a chance of silverware.

Machine and Mwamba have also developed a rivalry of their own. Traditionally, Mwamba was made up of former Machine players who had cleared campus who wanted to “teach their juniors (Machine) a lesson.”

Machine on the other hand are to prove to Mwamba that youth beats experience.

Being neighbours on Uhuru Highway didn’t help matters. Only after Mwamba opened doors to all players, not necessarily ex-Machine, did the rivalry die out. But with their close proximity, their is always a bone to chew on.

The University derby involving Strathmore and Machine has evolved into an interesting duel, as the two sides try to outshine each other in a bid to prove their superiority.

In every league, some individuals stand out of the pack and it is not different in the Kenya Cup.

Derrick Wamalwa, one of the best front rows the country has ever produced is the heaviest player in the league with 132 kilogrammes.

His mastery of set piece techniques makes him a nightmare for opponents. Wamalwa plays for Nondies but previously turned out for Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) from 2002 to 2011.

Incidentally, the lightest player in the league also hails from Nondies. Kabau Muruatetu weighs 53 kilogrammes and is the first choice scrumhalf at the club.

Muruatetu has been one of the key players who are instrumental in Nondescripts good run in the league.

KCB’s Anthony Ogot is both the oldest and most experienced player in the Kenya Cup.

Row still fresh

At 36, Ogot is in his 15th Kenya Cup season. The second row is still fresh and said he still has some gas in the cylinder to burn.

Some players have had an opportunity to play for clubs abroad, owing to the development and popularity of the local league.

Edward Rombo led the way in 1990 when he joined Leeds Rhinos in the United Kingdom.

To date he’s arguably the best player Kenya has ever produced. His time Machine saw them lift the Kenya Cup in 1989 and 1990.

While at Leeds, he was nicknamed Rambo by the British media, after the famed action hero.

A racehorse in London was named after him, as it dominated the racing scene in the 1990s.

Former Kenya Sevens players Ted Omondi followed suit when he signed for Taffs RFC in Wales.

He went on to play for Racing Metro 92 Paris, RCA Cergy-Pontoise in France, and is currently at Rugby Athletic Club Angerien.

Lucas Onyango joined Manchester RFC in 2002, and went on to play for Widnes Vikings and is presently at Oldham RFC in the United Kingdom.

Nondies’ Wamalwa and Homeboyz’s Dan Weku also played for Racing Club of Paris, France between 2007 and 2009.