6 January 2013

Uganda: Rugby in 2013 - What We Should Expect

A new year is before us and we expect new champions, new heroes, villains and history awaits to be made.

As the Rugby Union gets set to kick off the new season this Saturday, Felix Eupal looks at the season gone by, while at the same time highlighting what lies ahead.

Nile Special National League:

The league title went down to the wire with MTN Heathens showing fierce tenacity to claw their way back and win it with a point. Dmark Kobs, who have won the title 10 times, went into the season desperate to maintain their pedigree, seeing that Heathens had won the title nine times.

In the end, they couldn't hold out. Heathens now stand level at ten titles a piece with Kobs and that rivalry will stay since the chasing pack Pirates and Mongers seem content with being perennial bridesmaids. Toyota Buffaloes were the surprise package - their youngsters came of age and a lot is expected from them this season.

We will also be looking at Summerkamp, the new kids on the block who won the relegation play-off battle against Nile RFC to make it to the top flight.

Bamburi Rugby Super Series:

For the first time in the tournament's history, a Ugandan franchise made the finals - Dimension Data Rwenzori. They fell 14-25 to defending champions Rhinos. This year could be better for them to clinch the title for the first time.

Sevens Circuit:

Ecobank bankrolled this year's circuit, but the financial muscle didn't help the event that much. First, it was dull, and it was punctuated by violence. Heathens were shocked in the first circuit by Buffaloes and their captain, Alex Mubiru, lost his cool and attacked a referee, which earned him a six-month ban.

Nevertheless, the yellow Machine bounced back to win the title. This year they expect to do the same though clubs like Impis and Buffaloes should give them a run for their money.

Schools Rugby:

The Uganda Rugby Union has its work cut out when it comes to schools rugby. The schools feed the teams with fresh blood every year. Last year, we saw the likes of Philip Wokorach, Ivan Magomu, Alphonse Kishato and Alfred Bijik come into their own.

But on a sour note, the union failed to tame the hooliganism in the sport. The eventual winners Namilyago College turned the turf into a wrestling ring when they attacked Hana fans and players during the semifinal. It turned bloody. The union responded with some penalties but they need to be stricter so that the teams display a sense of sportsmanship. The union also failed to raise money for the U19 team to take part in CAR U19 tournament. They should do better.

Uganda Cup:

With Kobs rejuvenated with a Shs 400m sponsorship package from Dmark Mobile, they had no choice but to repay their new bosses and they did exactly that: they won their third straight Uganda Cup trophy after a 14-13 victory over Heathens. The victory brought their total tally to four. This year they hope to do the same and it will most likely boil down to Kobs or Heathens.

Makerere 10s:

After missing out on the calendar in 2011, the tournament returned with Kampala Sun newspaper bankrolling it. Unfortunately, the timing was poor, meaning no Kenyan team could make it. Rwanda was the only foreign side that made it. Heathens walked away with it after beating Buffaloes. The organizers will need to look for more sponsors to raise the pomp in the tournament.

Elgon Cup:

The tournament ended on a low note with the death of Kenyan ladies team captain Aberdeen Shikoyi who broke her neck in the first leg in Kampala. But on a positive note, Uganda finally won the tournament for the first time since 2006.

After having foreign coaches, the union decided to change that approach and hired Yayiro Kasasa as head coach, Peter Magona (Strategy), Fred Mudoola (Forwards) and Herbert Wafula (Backs).The Lady Cranes, however, lost the Elgon Cup on aggregate. The quartet has the potential of taking the team to greater heights this year.

CAR Cup:

After dropping to the second tier of CAR, the Rugby Cranes managed to reach the final of the CAR even though they lost to Zimbabwe 18-22. The Rugby Cranes now find themselves ranked 41 on the IRB rankings.

Safaricom Sevens Kenya:

The Rugby Cranes were a disaster at the Sevens Circuit; they even failed to make the Shield Cup. That said, we have to note that the Sevens have never been the Rugby Cranes forte because the union has no strategy to have clear-cut sevens players. Perhaps this should be top of the agenda this year.

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