Kenya comes up short against South Africa in inaugural 5 v 5 team battle

(Check out our glossary as you read this article for definitions of the jargon used)

The South African FGC was given something to cheer for Saturday evening after their team of Tekken representatives managed to scrape a win against the opposing Kenyan team in the inaugural 5 v 5 Team Battle between the two countries, organised under the auspices of Pro Series Gaming (PSG).

The competition was initially supposed to have 7 players on each team; Kenya were to be represented by Darktempest, Frost, RMP | Shoryuken, Mahashtag, AlphaPlay | Mickey, AlphaPlay | Simba and team captain DVK. South Africa's line-up consisted of Rolanthunder, Aegis, Shaunkilla, Zaifong, Flashzn, Vaghen and team captain TekkenGuru. However, Flashzn and Vaghen were unable to compete on the day, forcing DVK to drop Frost and Mahashtag from the Kenyan squad. Due to connectivity issues, Simba was also unable to compete and was replaced by his AlphaPlay teammate PR1EST. Each set was played on a FT2 basis, with each team's objective to knock out all members of the opposing team first.

Team captain DVK went second for the Kenyan team, eliminating Shaunkilla and Rolanthunder in the process

After 2 hours of technical difficulties on the South African side, the competition finally began with RMP | Shoryuken going first for the Kenyans, picking Master Raven to go up against Shaunkilla's Paul. Shaunkilla seemed to stroll through the first match winning three straight rounds, notably whiff punishing Master Raven's 3~4 with a rage drive deathfist to end the third round and go 1-0 up in the set. Shoryuken switched to Xiaoyu for the second match, but it did not matter as Shaunkilla beat him again, despite dropping a round this time.

Darktempest was lined up next for Team Kenya, but after several minutes of more technical difficulties, team captain DVK decided to step up to the plate and avoid any more wastage of time. After a relatively slow start, DVK snatched the first round away from Shaunkilla with a combo off a whiff punish. It was all DVK from there, keeping up the pressure with Miguel's annoying pokes to take three rounds straight off his opponent.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the outcome of the first match, Shaunkilla tied the set up at 1-1, taking advantage of DVK's impatience with several low-crushing moves to go under Miguel's jabs. With Shaunkilla two rounds up, DVK seemed to have woken up when he pulled a round back with a perfect, but Shaunkilla answered back with his own perfect to win the match, creeping under more highs to rack up valuable damage.

DVK seemed to catch onto Shaunkilla's strategy in the third match, this time making use of spacing to try and take advantage of any whiffed attacks; Shaunkilla notably whiffed Paul's unblockable Burning Fist in the first round, possibly due to a misinput, which DVK rightfully whiff punished with a launcher on his way to winning the round. Shaunkilla put up more of a resistance than he did in the first match, but he couldn't deny DVK yet another victory of 3 straight rounds.

Rolanthunder, South Africa's next player, picked Lars for his first match against DVK. Rolanthunder came at DVK with all sorts of random attacks, making for uncoordinated pressure, which DVK easily dealt with despite some missed punishes. Having lost three rounds straight, Rolanthunder switched to Jin, DVK's main character, for the second match. DVK seemed to lack sharpness with his punishment as Rolanthunder took the match to a final round, which DVK narrowly edged out having been put in rage.

Up next for the South African team was King main Aegis, who had previously played and won against DVK's Miguel online. The first match of the set was back and forth as expected, with DVK twice coming back from a round down to take it to a final round. Miguel's excellent poking shone through in the end, as DVK did not (need to) land a single combo that round on his way to victory.

The second match was looking to be a blowout for Aegis, who went ahead with two straight rounds to put himself in a very good position. DVK refused to go down without a fight, however, answering back with two straight rounds of his own to take the match down to the wire yet again. The supposed shift in momentum ultimately did not mean much as Aegis managed to hold on to level the set at 1-1.

The third match appeared to be a case of déjà-vu. After losing the first round, Aegis capitalised on DVK's impatient jabbing with a FC d/f+2 to swing the momentum back in his favour and take the second round. DVK took back the lead with more of the same persistent poking, back lost the fourth round under Aegis' own pressure, taking the match down to a final round for the third time. DVK's impatience proved to be his downfall, with Aegis sneaking under more jabs to land another combo that pushed his opponent towards the wall and ultimately taking the round and the set with King's trademark stagger kicks.

AlphaPlay | PR1Est was the fourth player for the Kenyan team, knocking out Aegis and losing to Zaifong

Darktempest finally got to play for the Kenyan side, picking his main character Katarina to go up against Aegis. Aegis made light work of Darktempest in the first match, with King barely losing any health in three straight round wins to take the lead in the set. However, Darktempest showed more resolve in the second match and made more use of Katarina's pokes to win the first round. Having answered back to tie up the rounds, Aegis found himself with some work to do after losing the third round, but grafted to not only take the match to a final round but go on to win the set with his second elimination of the day.

AlphaPlay | PR1Est, who finished in the Top 3 in two of the three tournaments he participated in in Season One of the TEKKEN 254 Circuit, represented yet another tough test for Aegis. The set was shaping up to be another tense affair, with both players taking rounds from each other to take it to the final round in the first match. After some good play from Aegis, PR1Est cut down his opponent's life lead quickly and looked set to win when Aegis stole back momentum with a Shining Wizard. PR1Est would have rued his decision to stay on the ground when Aegis used King's rage drive to keep him there, following up by turning PR1Est's Jack-7 over and finishing him off with a King's Bridge.

The second match was more of the same; PR1Est started off firing on all cylinders with relentless pressure before Aegis fought his way back into contention. Strangely, though, Aegis lost the first round off the second hit of Jack-7's rage drive, which he probably would have blamed on his own impatience. A tense second round ended with a nerve-wracking slow-mo moment, which went Aegis' way as King crushed Jack-7's d/b+1 with u/f+3+4. PR1Est remained unfazed though, sticking to his game plan and making use of Jack-7's poking and okizeme mix-ups to win the next two rounds and level the set.

As if Aegis took a page from DVK's book, PR1Est began the round with Jack-7's 2, 1, 2, the last hit of which launched Aegis as he began to press buttons. The same thing happened again when PR1Est used f+1, 2, 2, knocking Aegis down before going on to win the first round. After working hard to send the match to the final round, Aegis found himself pressing buttons yet again in the middle of Jack-7's 2, 1, 2, leading to a round-ending and set-winning combo for PR1Est.

South Africa's fourth customer was Zaifong, who is said to primarily play Akuma and Feng. Zaifong went with the former for his first match against PR1Est, coming back from a significant life deficit to win the first round. Finding himself in the same situation in the next round, PR1Est managed to close it out that time but succumbed to immense pressure in the third, notably failing to launch punish Akuma's d/f+2, 4, 3 at the wall. PR1Est looked flustered in the fourth and final round as Zaifong closed out the match with an almost full health bar intact.

Zaifong picked up where he left off in the second match, coming at PR1Est with heavy pressure to take the first round in just over 13 seconds. PR1Est fought back to take the second round, but just like in the first match, Zaifong was not to be denied as he went on to win the following two rounds in fairly convincing fashion.

AlphaPlay | Mickey was Kenya's last hope against South Africa's Zaifong and team captain TekkenGuru

Team Kenya saved its best for last; TEKKEN 254 Circuit champion AlphaPlay | Mickey stepped up to face Zaifong, who stuck with Akuma to face Mickey's Katarina in the first match of their set. Having the luxury of watching Zaifong beforehand may have helped Mickey, who scraped through with a low parry combo to win the first round after Zaifong quickly closed his life lead. After losing the second round, Zaifong fought back valiantly to take the third round with a huge life lead, but Mickey was not to be denied as he put in a strong round to take the first match.

Convinced that Mickey was onto his strategy with Akuma, Zaifong switched to Feng in hopes of taking back momentum. With plenty of experience online as a Feng player, Mickey displayed his knowledge of the match-up and shut Zaifong down convincingly in the first two rounds. The third round went a bit better for Zaifong, starting strong to gain a decent life lead before Mickey came back with Katarina's sneaky lows and effective counter-hit baiting to take the set 2-0.

The last set of the competition was one many in the Kenyan Tekken scene were hoping would come to pass. Neither South Africa's team captain TekkenGuru nor any of his team-mates had ever faced Mickey before; a set between the two nations' best players was expected to be a cracker.

Mickey stuck with Katarina for the first match of the set against TekkenGuru's Feng. A tense first round, won with a down jab from TekkenGuru with both players in rage, set the tone for the rest of the match and indeed the rest of the set. Mickey answered back to take the second before both players forced each other into rage in the third, with TekkenGuru pulling off a clutch low parry to take back the lead once again. The fourth round went against the run of play, as TekkenGuru saw off Mickey in convincing fashion to get within one match of winning the competition for his team.

Mickey switched to Gigas in the second match and hit the ground running, returning the favour from the previous round to beat TekkenGuru with a massive life lead. TekkenGuru came out with some good play in the second round to answer back, but Mickey remained solid and won the third round as he did in the first with a big life lead. It was looking to be more of the same in the fourth when TekkenGuru interrupted Mickey's wall pressure with Feng's u/f+2 to get away from the wall; Mickey managed to launch TekkenGuru some time later but could not close out the round, with TekkenGuru smartly rolling away from Gigas' Advancing Giant Press in the follow-up to the combo and managing to steal the round. The final round was anyone's guess, as both players cut each other's HP down steadily, with Mickey ultimately managing to get TekkenGuru up against the wall once again. However, with Mickey continuing his pressure, TekkenGuru used his rage art to steal the momentum and with both players at the absolute brink, TekkenGuru continued his pressure but ultimately got caught by Gigas' 1, 2, putting Mickey right back in contention.

With both players one match away from total victory, TekkenGuru decided to switch to Bob for the final match. The decision seemed to pay off at first with TekkenGuru racking up a decent life lead and good positioning at the wall, but his decision to use Bob's d/f+3, 4, 4 in an attempt to close it out proved fatal; Mickey blocked the second hit and remained crouching to duck and launch punish the third hit, sending TekkenGuru into rage with a damaging combo and sealing the round with the mid option from Gigas' rage drive on wake-up. The two players put each other within pixels of defeat in the second round, but Mickey managed to weather TekkenGuru's pressure and put himself in a great position with two rounds under his belt.

Mickey looked set to win it all for Team Kenya as he sent TekkenGuru into rage with a combo in the third round, but suddenly had a jab crushed by Bob's hopkick in the final moments to give TekkenGuru a lifeline. He left nothing to chance as he finished his combo and the round with a rage art to set up an interesting finish. TekkenGuru rode on his momentum to shut Mickey down in the fourth round, capitalising on a dropped low parry combo towards the end to see him off with a big life lead.

What seemed an almost certain victory for Team Kenya suddenly hanged in the balance and TekkenGuru was determined not to let his hard work go to waste. In the final round, TekkenGuru garnered valuable damage early on with a combo off Bob's d/b+1+2 as Mickey attempted to sweep him with Gigas' FC d/f+2. Mickey later failed to break a command throw that sent him into rage and lost the round, the set and the competition under pressure from TekkenGuru on wake-up.