NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) – Kenya Simbas head coach Paul Odera says the team is calm, easygoing and collected ahead of Saturday night’s Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifying quarterfinal match against Uganda in France.
A tough disciplinarian and a dedicated tactician, the tactician says the focus on the boys reminds him of the great European conquest teams Real Madrid, as well as the all-black and English sides who have previously won huge titles.
“The team looks good. Very focused. They’re pretty calm and they remind me of that when you look at the very good Real Madrid teams or the All Black teams that are performing at their best or even the England team that won the World Cup in 2003 or the South African team , who won the last World Cup,” said Odera capital sport.
“That’s the feeling I get when I see her. You are focused and ready for the challenge.”
The Simbas left the country for France last week and have settled in well over the past few days, sharpening their claws for their first bout against the Ugandans in the Quarters.
Coach Odera expects a tough duel against the neighbors but is quick to add that they did their homework right and will come out with a good performance.
“Uganda have become a better team, yes. How do we approach them? There is always a delicate balance and we cannot focus too much on Uganda and take our eyes off ourselves. We looked at what we’re doing well, we looked at what Uganda is doing well and what’s not doing well, and we came up with a plan. With every coach, there’s always hope that the players can implement the plan that day and we’re pretty confident in what we’ve done,” said the coach.
The Simbas travel to France with renewed confidence after playing two Currie Cup sides in Nairobi, beating both the EP Elephants and the Leopards.
Coach Odera believes the two games show how much the side have improved, especially after an 11-week training camp in South Africa.
The players have returned looking taller and fitter and Odera adds they are even more hungry for success.
“They are fitter, especially the tight five. It’s always been a concern how our props and second row hold up in terms of fitness. Now that’s a plus. They’re bigger, they’ve added like four or five kilos of muscle, and they’re more powerful and stronger,” he noted.
He adds; “The biggest plus was also her tactical awareness and style of play, which has really improved. Sometimes we were too naive when we played against strong opponents and even when we played against opponents that weren’t stronger and we weren’t able to shoot away on all fronts. We’ve made progress over the past 16 weeks.”
“If we apply what we have practiced, we should be able to put a lot of pressure on Uganda.”
He also says there is a certain level of pressure within the squad but notes they have turned it around for the better and will use it to spur their ambition on the pitch.
Meanwhile, the tactician says he is proud that a large number of players in the squad have progressed through youth level, particularly during his time as U20 national team coach.
“It shows that if we believe in a coach and allow him to build a structure, then that can always lead to success,” said the tactician.
Ten of the players who traveled to France are under-23s, most of whom won the Barthes Cup with him in 2019.