The Rugby Africa Gold Cup kicks off on Saturday 16th June with two matches on the cards. Zimbabwe get the campaign underway with a clash at home to the unknown quantity that is Morocco while champions Namibia host Uganda in the day's late kick off.
This year's competition is of great significance to all six teams competing in the top tier of African test rugby as the overall winner earns direct qualification to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan in addition to being crowned champions of Africa. The competition runner up will proceed to play a repechage tournament later in the year against sides from the Americas, Europe and Asia for the final slot in Japan.
Kenya, champions in 2011 and 2013 enter the fray with an away fixture against Morocco on Saturday 23rd June as Namibia play at home to Tunisia the same day.
Action will come thick and fast over the next two match days, the weekend of Saturday 30th June seeing Kenya host Zimbabwe as Namibia play their away fixture of the campaign in Morocco.
The great East African derby pitting Kenya and Uganda in Nairobi a week later on July 7 is undoubtedly the highlight of the round. The battle to keep world cup qualification hopes alive will be heavy on the minds of the two sides, but so will be the resolution of that two legged neighborhood spat in the form of the Elgon Cup, Kenya holding a 34-16 advantage from the first leg on Saturday 26 May in Kampala.
Back to matters Gold Cup and Tunisia host Zimbabwe in the day's other fixture before the competition takes a three week break necessitated by the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, USA between 20th and 22nd July.
Zimbabwe will be at home to Namibia when the competition resumes on 4th August while Uganda host Tunisia in Kampala.
Kenya will return to action a week later with a home tie against Tunisia in Nairobi as Uganda welcome Morocco to Kampala.
The curtains fall on the competition on Saturday 18th August when all six teams will be involved in action. Namibia host Kenya in Windhoek, Tunisia playing Morocco in Monastir while Uganda play Zimbabwe in Harare.
There has been quite the build up to the competition, teams leaving nothing to chance. Zimbabwe, Africa's representatives at the first two editions of the Rugby World Cup in 1987 and 1991 have enlisted the services of former Springbok Head Coach Peter de Villiers to lead their quest for a return to the world stage for the first time in close to three decades. Namibia, winners of the last four Gold Cups in 2014,2015,2016 and 2017 will be out to again assert their dominance on the African continent and add to their uninterrupted streak of five Rugby World Cup appearances in 1999,2003,2007,2011 and 2015. Kenya, who agonizing came close to qualifying for the 2015 Rugby World Cup have enlisted the services of New Zealanders Ian Snook and Murray Roulston as they look to emulate their sevens counterparts by representing African on the global stage.
Uganda, Tunisia and Morocco too will be leaving nothing to chance and will be out to upset the established order during this year's competition.
It promises to be an intense Gold Cup!
Rugby Africa Gold Cup
Saturday 16 June 2018
Zimbabwe v Morocco – Harare
Namibia v Uganda – Windhoek
Saturday 23 June 2018
Namibia v Tunisia – Windhoek
Morocco v Kenya – Casablanca
Saturday 30 June 2018
Kenya v Zimbabwe – Nairobi
Morocco v Namibia – Casablanca
Saturday 7 July 2018
Kenya v Uganda – Nairobi
Tunisia v Zimbabwe – Monastir
Saturday 4 August 2018
Zimbabwe v Namibia – Bulawayo
Uganda v Tunisia – Kampala
Saturday 11 August 2018
Kenya v Tunisia – Nairobi
Uganda v Morocco – Kampala
Saturday 18 August 2018
Namibia v Kenya – Windhoek
Uganda v Zimbabwe – Kampala
Tunisia v Morocco – Monastir
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Kenya Rugby Union (KRU).
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About The Kenya Rugby Union (www.KRU.co.ke): The Kenya Rugby Union is the body mandated to manage the game of rugby union in Kenya. It is an affiliate of World Rugby and Rugby Africa.