Kenya national rugby union team

Last updated

Emblem African lion
Union Kenya Rugby Union
Head coach Paul Odera
CaptainSamson Onsomu
Most caps Joel Nganga (52)
Top scorerDarwin Mukidza (364)
Top try scorerDarwin Mukidza (17)
Home stadium RFUEA Ground
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Kit body Kenyakitb.png
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Kit right arm Kenyaright.png
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Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks Kenyasocks16.png
Kit socks long.svg
First colours
Kit left arm Kenyaleft.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body Kenyakit.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm Kenyaright.png
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Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks Kenyasocks16.png
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Second colours
World Rugby ranking
Current32 (as of 23 November 2020)
Highest22 (2016)
Lowest51 (2003, 2004)
First international
KenyaKenya won Tanganyika [1] [lower-alpha 1]
Biggest win
Kenya 96–3 Nigeria
(10 August 1987)
Biggest defeat
Namibia 84–12 Kenya
(27 May 2006)
World Cup

The Kenya national rugby union team is also known as the Simbas (simba is Swahili for 'lion'). Kenya competes in the Africa Cup and is ranked thirty-second in the World Rugby Rankings as of July 2019. [2] Kenya is yet to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. [3]


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


Early history (1909–1960s)

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 Kenya Harlequin F.C., 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)

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 toured Ireland, playing Irish club sides, 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, Thomas Onyango 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)

The Simba XV logo Simba XV logo.jpg
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]


Men's World Rugby Rankings
Top 30 rankings as of 12 July, 2021 [9]
1Steady2.svgFlag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 094.20
2Steady2.svgFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 088.95
3Steady2.svgFlag of England.svg  England 085.44
4Steady2.svgIRFU flag.svg  Ireland 084.85
5Increase2.svg2Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 083.90
6Decrease2.svg1Flag of France.svg  France 083.45
7Decrease2.svg1Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 082.82
8Steady2.svgFlag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 082.02
9Steady2.svgFlag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 080.92
10Steady2.svgFlag of Japan.svg  Japan 079.13
11Steady2.svgFlag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 076.87
12Steady2.svgFlag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 073.73
13Increase2.svg1Flag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 071.88
14Increase2.svg1Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 070.65
15Decrease2.svg2Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga 070.28
16Steady2.svgFlag of the United States.svg  United States 068.10
17Steady2.svgFlag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 067.02
18Steady2.svgFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 066.22
19Steady2.svgFlag of Spain.svg  Spain 064.82
20Increase2.svg1Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 063.90
21Decrease2.svg1Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 062.71
22Steady2.svgFlag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong 061.23
23Steady2.svgFlag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 061.11
24Steady2.svgFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 059.30
25Steady2.svgFlag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 059.04
26Steady2.svgFlag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 056.32
27Steady2.svgFlag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 056.16
28Increase2.svg1Flag of Chile.svg  Chile 055.20
28Decrease2.svg1Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 054.12
30Steady2.svgFlag of Germany.svg  Germany 053.13
*Change from the previous week

Overall record of the Kenyan national team up to date as of 12 July 2021.

OpponentPlayedWonLostDrawnWin %ForAgaDiff
Arabian Gulf 422050.0066141-75
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 2200100.004542+3
Flag of Botswana.svg  Botswana 1100100.00809+71
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 10100.001965-46
Flag of Chile.svg  Chile 10100.00323-20
Flag of Cote d'Ivoire.svg  Ivory Coast 1100100.002017+3
Flag of Cameroon.svg  Cameroon 4400100.0015655+101
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 20200.003573-38
Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong 614116.67151198-47
Flag of Madagascar.svg  Madagascar 412125.009473+21
Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco 422050.006598-33
Flag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 1129018.18201544-343
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria 1100100.00963+93
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 1100100.004115+26
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 10100.001031-21
Flag of Senegal.svg  Senegal 321066.678652+34
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 1100100.003627+9
Flag of Tunisia.svg  Tunisia 1073070.00354219+135
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates 1100100.005517+38
Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda 342210264.70840559+281
Flag of Zambia.svg  Zambia 761085.71202103+99
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 22913040.90507581-74

World Cup record

World Cup record World Cup Qualification record
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Flag of New Zealand.svg 1987 Not invited-
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Flag of Ireland.svg Flag of France.svg 1991 Did not enterDid not enter
Flag of South Africa.svg 1995 Did not qualify310240125
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 1999 Did not qualify21014270
Flag of Australia (converted).svg 2003 Did not qualify21016042
Flag of France.svg 2007 Did not qualify6312111191
Flag of New Zealand.svg 2011 Did not qualify21019152
Flag of England.svg 2015 Did not qualify5401153178
Flag of Japan.svg 2019 Did not qualify13715474420

Africa Cup record


Current squad

Kenyan 30-man squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup Repechage: [10] [11]

Notable former players

Recent results

Kenya competes annually against Uganda for the Elgon Cup, as well as competing for the Africa Cup. For the 2018 series, the Africa Cup fixture between Kenya and Uganda will double up as the second leg of the Elgon Cup.

26 May 2018 Uganda  Flag of Uganda.svg16 34Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya Legends Rugby Grounds, Kampala  
16:00 EAT (UTC+03)Try: Mugerwa
Con: P. Wokorach
Pen: Magomu (3/3)
Report Try: Ojee
Con: Mukidza (3/5)
Pen: Mukidza (1/1)
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)

Africa Gold Cup

23 June 2018 Morocco  Flag of Morocco.svg24 28Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya Stade du C.O.C., Casablanca  
17:00 WEST (UTC+01)Try: Idrissi 11' m
Boukanoucha 28' m
Arabat 48' c
Nassik 71' c
Con: Chakir (1/3) 49'
Brichet (1/1) 72'
Report Try: Adema 3' c
Onyango 51' c, 65' c
Amusala 57'
Con: Darwin Mukidza (4/4) 4', 52', 58', 65
Attendance: 800
Referee: Sebastien Minery (France)
30 June 2018 Kenya  Flag of Kenya.svg45 36Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe RFUEA Ground, Nairobi  
15:00 EAT (UTC+03)Try: Chenge 4', 13', 17' c
Onyango 20' m
Penalty Try 36'
Owilla 79' m
Chituyi 80+2' c
Con: Mukidza (4/6) 5', 14', 19', 80+3
Report Try: Parirenyatwa 10' m
Mutamangira 26' c
Makanda 40+4' m
Mudariki 41' m
Penalty Try 45'
McNab 54' c
Con: Tambwera (2/5) 28', 55'
Attendance: 5,000
Referee: Tual Trainini (France)
7 July 2018 Kenya  Flag of Kenya.svg38 22Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda RFUEA Ground, Nairobi  
15:00 EAT (UTC+03)Try: Ojee 6' c
Chenge 20' c
Onsomu 28' c
Ayange 36' c
Amusala 80+1' c
Con: Mukidza (5/5) 8', 21', 29', 37', 80+2'
Pen: Mukidza (1/1) 49'
Report Try: Wokorach 14' m, 71' m
Magomu 45' c
Okorach 62' m
Con: Wokorach 46'
Attendance: 3,200
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
11 August 2018 Kenya  Flag of Kenya.svg67 0Flag of Tunisia.svg  Tunisia RFUEA Ground, Nairobi  
14:00 EAT (UTC+03)Try: Ambaka 5' c, 79' m
Chenge 21' c
Chogo 23' c
Ojee 27' c
Musonye 31' c
Mukidza 36' m
Owilla 41' m
Karia 55' m
Omollo 66' c
Opondo 74' m
Con: Mukidza (5/6) 6', 21', 24', 28', 32
Omollo (1/4) 67'
Mose (0/1)
Report Attendance: 7,000
Referee: Julien Castaignede (France)
18 August 2018 Namibia  Flag of Namibia.svg53 28Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya Hage Geingob Rugby Stadium  
16:00 WAT (UTC+01)Try: Botha 24' c, 71' c
Westhuizen 27' c, 42' c
Loubser 34' m
Tjeriko 57' c
Penalty Try 62'
Con: Loubser (5/6) 25', 28', 43', 59', 72'
Pen: Loubser (2/2) 5', 52'
Report Try: Ambaka 13' c, 55' c
Onsando 66' c
Omollo 74' c
Con: Mukidza (4/4) 15', 56', 67', 75'
Attendance: 5,000
Referee: Egon Seconds (South Africa)


11 November 2018 Canada  Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg65 19Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya Pierre-Delort Stadium, Marseille  
13:00 CET(UTC+01)Try: van der Merwe (3) 9' c, 29' m, 76' c
Beukeboom (2) 12' m, 61' c
Sauder (2) 39' c, 54' m
Ardron 50' c
Sheppard 69' c
Evans 70' m
Con: McRorie (5/9) 10', 40', 51', 62', 69'
Sauder (1/1) 77'
Pen: McRorie (1/1) 2'
Report Try: Onyango 17' m
Owade 32' c
Nyambua 43' c
Con: Mukidza (1/2) 43'
Oliech (1/1) 32'
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
17 November 2018 Hong Kong  Flag of Hong Kong.svg42 17Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya Pierre-Delort Stadium, Marseille  
14:00 CET(UTC+01)Try: Denmark 29' c
Hewson 49' c
Fenn 54' c
Lamboley (2) 64' c, 70' c
Warner 81' c
Con: Rimene (4/4) 30', 50', 55', 65'
Rosslee (2/2) 71', 83'
Try: Opondo (2) 16' c, 57' m
Musonye 22' m
Con: Oliech (1/3) 17'
Attendance: 1,500
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
23 November 2018 Kenya  Flag of Kenya.svg6 43Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Pierre-Delort Stadium, Marseille  
18:00 CET(UTC+01)Try: Oliech (2/3) 2', 38'
Try: Ferreira 22'c, 58'c, 70'c
Haupt 40+1'm
Otto 45'c
Leibig 50'c
Aounallah 79'c
Con: Parkinson (5/7) 22', 46', 52', 71', 80+1'
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)

See also


  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.

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  1. Campbell (1960) pp41
  2. "Record score propels Kenya to an all-time high in rankings".
  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. "Kenya Simbas go on the rampage against Portugal".
  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. "Men's World Rankings". World Rugby. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  10. "Kenya Squad".
  11. "Four kenya sevens players join Simbas".