NAIROBI, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's national rugby team will play Portugal and Germany in friendly matches in Nairobi in July as part of their preparations for the Africa Gold Cup.
Thomas Odundo, director of rugby at the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), said the team's target in 2019 is to win Africa's premier competition and improve the Simbas' ranking, which currently stands at 32 in the world.
"We have financial challenges, but that should not stop us planning and offering the players the best preparations," Odundo said on Friday in Nairobi.
Kenya lost to Namibia in last year's Gold Cup for the third consecutive season and forfeited their World Cup dreams, with Namibia heading to Japan for the finals later this year.
Kenya entered the World Cup qualifiers repechage in Marseille, France but finished last behind winners Canada, Germany and Hong Kong, China.
Odundo insisted that although this year's Africa Gold Cup will not count towards World Cup qualification, it was still critical for they to finally beat the Namibian side, who have made their home stadium something of a fortress.
"Our bid is to complement the fixtures we have from the continental matches by playing the European teams," Odundo added.
Kenya last played Portugal three years ago in Nairobi, winning 41-15. However, the Simbas lost twice to the Germans - 29-28 in Nairobi, and 43-6 in Marseille during last year's World Cup qualifying tournament.
"Kenya must get its act together and help the national team do well so that we may improve our ranking. We have either stagnated or dropped in ranking in the last few years. But with good structure and more international matches, the team can improve, win the Africa Cup and anchor the continent's bid at the World Cup," Odundo added.
However, Kenya is yet to name a replacement for coach Ian Snook, whose contract was not renewed last year after he failed to guide the team to the World Cup. Kenya's Paul Odera has been primed to take over the reins.
Prior to his departure, Snook warned that Kenya must play more international matches if they are to improve.
"Kenya's players need to compete against the best in the world and learn from the best. Kenya needs international matches and that was our problem in the Africa Gold Cup," the New Zealander said after Kenya was beaten by Namibia last year.