Kenya national rugby union team

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Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s) Simbas
Emblem African lion
Union Kenya Rugby Union
Head coach Jerome Paarwater
Captain Brian Nyikuli
Most caps Joel Nganga (52)
Top try scorer Innocent Simiyu (12)
Home stadium RFUEA Ground
First colours
Second colours
World Rugby ranking
Current 22 (as of 29 August 2016)
Highest 22 (2016)
Lowest 51 (2003, 2004)
First international
Kenya Kenya won Tanganyika[1][a]
Biggest win
Kenya 96–3 Nigeria
(10 August 1987)
Biggest defeat
Namibia 84–12 Kenya
(27 May 2006)
World Cup
Appearances 0

The Kenya national rugby union team represents Kenya in rugby union. The team is also known as the Simbas, which is the Swahili word for lion.

Kenya competes in the Africa Cup and is ranked twenty-second in the World Rugby Rankings as of August 2016.[2] Kenya has never qualified for the Rugby World Cup.[3]

Their home ground is the RFUEA Ground which opened to an East Africa side against the British and Irish Lions in 1955. The national team is managed by the Kenya Rugby Union.


Early history (1909–1960s)[edit]

Rugby Union was introduced to Kenya at the beginning of the 20th century by British settlers and the first recorded match was in 1909. The game was initially restricted to whites only.

In 1923, the primary club in Kenya, Nairobi District, was split into Nondescripts RFC and Harlequins, due to the club's overwhelming strength. In the 1950s the first internationals began taking place.[4] Early competitions included the Nairobi District Championships first held in 1925, a Royal Armed Forces tournament first held in 1937 and the Enterprise Cup which has been in existence since 1930.

Kenya played host to touring sides between the 1920s and the 1950s; notably including University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University and a Combined Universities (Oxford and Cambridge) team at Mitchell Park Stadium in 1951.

By 1953, the Rugby Football Union of East Africa was formed to oversee rugby in the three East African colonies of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. A Kenya Colony team played a Tanganyika team for the first time in 1954 and a Uganda Protectorate team in 1958 with the Kenyan representative side winning 21-11. Often, the Kenyan side was combined with other East African nations, and composed of players of European ethnicity. While the results were often lopsided, these games provided a huge amount of revenue for rugby in Kenya, and were incredibly beneficial. Kenya, as an independent side, played its first game against Tanganyika, proving to be victorious.

Independence and integration (1970s–1980s)[edit]

Post-independence, the desegregation of the Kenyan school system meant that indigenous black Africans' featured in the rugby sides of elite schools such as Duke of York and Prince of Wales. Players such as Chris Onsotti, John Gichinga, Dennis Awori, George Kariuki and Jim Owino would form the first generation of indigenous black African rugby players.

In 1972, Ted Kabetu became the first indigenous black Kenyan to play for the East Africa Tuskers in a match against Richmond RFC. That same year, the Tuskers played a tour against Ireland, achieving moderate success and winning 3 out of their 8 tests; Chris Onsotti became the first forward black Tusker playing at prop on the Fourth Tuskers Tour of Ireland in 1972; and Jackson "Jacko" Omaido a school boy at Lenana School (formerly Duke of York) represented the Tuskers playing at fly-half at a 1975 tour of Zambia.

An influx of players from Tanganyika due to a flight of expatriates would boost the Kenyan game. During the early 1970s, a number of English clubs began touring Kenya, playing unofficial test matches against the Tuskers. This included Harlequins RFC nearly being beaten, only for the Tuskers to lose 20-15.

After an invitation in the local dailies to black African rugby players, Miro RFC was formed as an invitational side; rather like the Barbarians or local equivalents, Scorpions RFC. Miro were an all black African side and included two white players (Doug Hamilton and Pat Orr); considered to have played an important role in bringing black Africans into rugby in Kenya. The team played Rugby Roma Olimpic in 1976, winning 20-12. However, the side was disbanded over questions of the racial selection of players.

The Tuskers, by the mid 1970s being fully integrated with both black and whites, faced Zambia, winning 4 tests out of 5. Around this time, some clubs began folding due to the flight of white expatriate players. Despite the growth, conflicts emerged between the black Kenyan players and the many clubs which were still run by expatriates; Miro RFC played again in 1979, this time recording triumph against Blackheath F.C. 32-19, providing major hope for black African rugby.

Mean Machine RFC and Mwamba RFC both founded in 1977 as indigenous African rugby sides. Mean Machine, a representative side of the University of Nairobi featuring Absalom "Bimbo" Mutere, Tom Oketch and football international Joe "JJ" Masiga were notable for winning the Kenya Cup on their first attempt. Black Blad RFC representing Kenyatta University College would follow thereafter. Mean Machine were however disbanded as a result of the closure of Nairobi University after the failed coup of 1982.

Miro RFC continued to play, but lost to the Metropolitan Police club of London 40-9, a side that was described as "makeshift". Around this time, the Tuskers played their last tour in 1982, defeating Zimbabwe and Zambia. The 1980s also saw the introduction of the sevens game. However, the 1980s also saw a decline in the national side; for example, during a qualifier play-off against Zimbabwe, Kenya lost all three of their matches; by the end of the 1980s, Kenya lost to Zimbabwe 56-9.

Mixed fortunes (1990s–present)[edit]

The Simba XV logo

Kenya had firmly established stability in its domestic scene, with the game being picked up by the natives, and a league being established. During the 2000s Kenya began to start experiencing success again at the international level, finally being able to consistently record victories against sides such as Zimbabwe and Uganda.

For the 2007 Rugby World Cup qualifiers, the team defeated both Tunisia and Namibia at home, only to lose their away legs.

The team again failed to qualify for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, losing to Tunisia. In 2011, Kenya won the Africa Cup, beating Tunisia in the final 16-7 after both Morocco and Namibia withdrew due to financial constraints; the following season saw Kenya regress and struggle against Uganda and Zimbabwe, only defeating Tunisia to avoid relegation. The 2013 season proved to be a pivotal moment in Kenyan rugby, as they beat both Uganda and Zimbabwe, winning the Africa Cup for the second time, and the first time in a full four team pool.

The Kenyan national team competed in the South African domestic Vodacom Cup competition in 2014, playing as the Simba XV. The Simba XV were based in Cape Town for the duration of the competition and won their opening match, beating the Eastern Province Kings 17–10.[5] However, they lost their remaining six matches to finish in seventh spot in the Southern Section.

The preparation aided in the 2014 Africa Cup with Kenya earning victory over both Madagascar and Namibia. A loss to Zimbabwe on match day three resulted in a third-place finish on points difference and Kenya failing to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. In May 2015, Kenya played a European team for the first time since the East Africa sides of the 1970s and 1980s, defeating Portugal 41–15 in a test match at the RFUEA Ground.[6]

In 2016, the Kenya Rugby Union announced a sponsorship deal with betting firm Sportpesa, to a deal worth up to 607 million KES; this is the most lucrative sponsorship deal in Kenyan rugby history, and figures not only to fund 7s and men's XVs, but the women's and youth game as well.[7] In September of that year, the KRU formally applied to be included in the South African Currie Cup.[8]


Kenya has recorded at least one victory against every nation it has faced, although it has never faced a top twenty ranked team.[citation needed]

Top 30 rankings as of 20 March 2017[9]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 Steady  New Zealand 94.78
2 Steady  England 89.53
3 Steady  Australia 86.35
4 Steady  Ireland 84.66
5 Steady  Scotland 82.18
6 Increase2  France 82.00
7 Steady  South Africa 81.79
8 Decrease2  Wales 81.21
9 Steady  Argentina 79.91
10 Steady  Fiji 76.46
11 Steady  Japan 74.22
12 Steady  Georgia 72.92
13 Steady  Tonga 71.94
14 Steady  Samoa 71.25
15 Steady  Italy 71.17
16 Steady  Romania 70.15
17 Steady  United States 66.79
18 Steady  Spain 63.05
19 Steady  Namibia 62.78
20 Steady  Russia 61.75
21 Steady  Uruguay 61.24
22 Steady  Canada 59.63
23 Steady  Kenya 59.28
24 Increase1  Portugal 58.87
25 Decrease1  Germany 58.40
26 Steady  Hong Kong 56.50
27 Steady  Belgium 55.87
28 Steady  South Korea 55.50
29 Increase1  Netherlands 53.98
30 Decrease1  Chile 53.91
*Change from the previous week
Opponent Played Won Lost Drawn Win % For Aga Diff
 Arabian Gulf 4 2 2 0 50.00% 66 141 -75
 Brazil 2 2 0 0 100.00% 45 42 +3
 Botswana 1 1 0 0 100.00% 80 9 +71
 Ivory Coast 1 1 0 0 100.00% 20 17 +3
 Cameroon 4 4 0 0 100.00% 156 55 +101
 Hong Kong 2 1 1 0 50.00% 51 54 -3
 Madagascar 4 1 2 1 25.00% 94 73 +21
 Morocco 3 1 2 0 33.33% 37 74 -37
 Namibia 9 2 7 0 22.22% 166 446 -280
 Nigeria 1 1 0 0 100.00% 96 3 +93
 Portugal 1 1 0 0 100.00% 41 15 +36
 Senegal 1 1 0 0 100.00% 22 7 +15
 Spain 1 1 0 0 100.00% 36 27 +9
 Tunisia 8 5 3 0 62.50% 187 209 -22
 United Arab Emirates 1 1 0 0 100.00% 55 17 +38
 Uganda 28 18 9 1 64.28% 683 449 +234
 Zambia 4 3 1 0 75.00% 83 56 +27
 Zimbabwe 20 6 14 0 30.00% 372 567 -195
Total 95 52 41 2 54.74% 2290 2261 +29

World Cup Record[edit]

World Cup record World Cup Qualification record
Year Round P W D L F A P W D L F A
AustraliaNew Zealand 1987 Not invited -
United KingdomRepublic of IrelandFrance 1991 Did not enter Did not enter
South Africa 1995 Did not qualify 3 1 0 2 40 125
Wales 1999 Did not qualify 2 1 0 1 42 70
Australia 2003 Did not qualify 2 1 0 1 60 42
France 2007 Did not qualify 6 3 1 2 111 191
New Zealand 2011 Did not qualify 2 1 0 1 91 52
England 2015 Did not qualify 5 4 0 1 153 178
Japan 2019 To be determined To be determined
Total 0/8 0 0 0 0 0 0 20 11 1 8 497 658

Africa Cup record[edit]

Main article: Africa Cup


Current squad[edit]

Kenya squad for the 2016 Africa Cup

African Leopards Representatives[edit]

  • Innocent Simiyu (versus South African Students, 2005 and British Army Seniors XV, 2006)
  • Dan Weku (versus British Army Seniors, 2006 and French U-20, 2007)
  • Derrick Wamalwa (versus French U-20, 2007)

Recent results[edit]

Kenya competes annually against Uganda for the Elgon Cup, as well as competing for the Africa Cup. For the 2016 series, the Africa Cup fixture between Kenya and Uganda will double up as the second leg of the Elgon Cup.

KRU are planning on 3 non-African test matches.[10]

In July 2016, Kenya earned a record 15-61 victory away to Zimbabwe in an Africa Cup test match.[11]

2016 results[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The first match for both Kenya and Tanzania (Tanganyika at the time) took place in 1954 at Arusha. It was held shortly before the First Tuskers Copperbelt tour later that year and served as a selection trial for the tour. This match was won by Kenya though the exact score is not known. The next year the fixture was repeated, again at Arusha, Tanganyika winning by 11 points to 3. The third match occurred a year later in 1956, again at Arusha; Kenya winning this encounter 0-13.


  • Campbell, M; Cohen, E.J. (1960). Rugby Football in East Africa 1909-1959. Rugby Football Union of East Africa. 
  1. ^ Campbell (1960) pp41
  2. ^
  3. ^ "About Us - Kenya Rugby Union". Kenya Rugby Union. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Early Days of Kenya Rugby". KenyaPage.Net. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "SA Rugby Match Centre – Tusker Simba XV 17-10 Eastern Province Kings". South African Rugby Union. 8 March 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Swila, Isaac. "Betting firm SportPesa, KRU sign Sh600m deal". Daily Nation. Retrieved 26 December 2016. 
  8. ^ Nuguna, William (6 September 2016). "Kenya eye Currie Cup". The Star. Retrieved 26 December 2016. 
  9. ^ "World Rankings". World Rugby. Retrieved 20 March 2017. 
  10. ^ Korir, Patrick (20 April 2016). "kenya-rugby-union-confirms-two-test-matches". Retrieved 20 April 2016. 
  11. ^

External links[edit]