What a time to be alive !! – if you are a rugby fan, especially in Uganda where you enjoy a seesaw of club rugby sevens and international fifteens rugby one after the other. The focus this week is the much anticipated Victoria cup which, in my opinion, is the kind of competition that should have come earlier while CAR sorts out their mysterious issues of not having an African championship to play – shame.
Having painfully lost to Kenya a fortnight ago where we assumed our usual second best, a role that has become norm in the Elgon cup, the team desperately needs to bounce back – no one wishes for this more than the man in the driving seat; Robert Sseguya. Anything less of second place in the Victoria cup this year should see him respectfully bow out and allow a new coach to take up the mantle and build a team for the 2023 Rugby World cup or 2027 for that matter.
A lot of young players are coming through the ranks and it is high time they get the game time they deserve – but how they get this game time in a nation that lacks a “Test B” side is the closest thing you will find to gambling. The super powers of the game we love; New Zealand, England, Ireland and South Africa have the Maori (which acts as test side), Saxons, Hounds and South Africa A respectively that are meant for the sole purpose of grooming players for test rugby at its pinnacle.
The fact that this is not the case in Uganda leaves us in quite the conundrum with a need to try out fresh talent while having to focus on bringing much expected results for the country. Saturday presents another gamble of throwing a number of youngsters in the deep end to face a Zimbabwe team that will definitely come at full throttle well aware of the threat that the home nation poses in Kampala.
Ivan Kabagambe, Kelvin Balagadde and Faraji Odugo are the new boys in the test team – Balagadde and Kabagambe are starting on the bench without a doubt (unless we are up for a Soggy surprise) with the real positional battle going to be at hooker between Richard Kanyanya whose set piece execution was forgettable despite scoring Uganda’s try and Faraji Odugo, who has been impressive for Kobs and the Uganda select side during the French Uganda week – but his lack of considerable weight makes him a liability at scrum time in a game where the set piece is going to be integral yet again. As a fan, I pray that these boys don’t face the baptism by fire but as a pundit, Zimbabwe is not the team many would want to start their test careers against.
Eric Mula returns to the line up and will provide much needed cover for the centre position – i am confident that coach Soggy will be going for the tried and tested this time round after a series of failed experiments. Seasoned leader ; Brian Asaba will not be part of the team as he misses out due to injury for the first time in what seems like an eternity for a man that is never out of the national colors. He will be sorely missed as he leaves a back row selection that is heavily inexperienced – Mike Otto, Kelvin Balagadde and Desire Ayera with Olet Simon as a make shift if need be.
The lack of actual “fetchers” cost us in a colossal manner against Kenya, in a game where Elkeans Musonye and Andrew Amonde had a turnover extravaganza; showing their skills and stealing as much possession at ruck time as a hungry man at a buffet. Against the more experienced Zimbabweans, the young back rowers will have to grow up fast and fit into very big boots in the absence of Brian (injured) and Pius who moves back to centre.
The Leadership Dilemma
Leadership on the pitch was quite an eye sore a fortnight ago and seems to be getting even more complicated in the absence of Asaba. Asuman Mugerwa is a fantastic player but isn’t cut out for leadership, which leaves one to ask whom the coach has in mind to stand up and co-captain the side with the Kabras based forward. Leadership is vital in a team that has a good number of youngsters.
The headache at 11,14 and 15
The back three headache is another area that killed Uganda’s execution so much – Adrian Kasito was very impressive but at the expense of seasoned star Phillip Wokorach who was lost if it were to be kindly put. How the back three lines up is pivotal to how lethal the Rugby Cranes can be. Kasito is a proven winger with a good tackle technique and an eye for the finish line, I would prefer to see him on the wing than gamble with a man whose comfort is clearly at fullback – Let Phillip be Phillip, give him the jersey number #15.
The Cranes still have the advantage
Regardless of the very many puzzles, home advantage is key and the boys in the camp are well aware of the errors that befell them two weeks previously. Uganda versus Zimbabwe is a do or die matter for the team who know very well that whatever result comes out of the fixture will set the precedent for the rest of campaign and no Ugandan wants to be on the negative end. GO UGANDA !!!
Predicted Match Day Line Up
Front Row: Santos Senteza, Richard Kanyanya, Asuman Mugerwa (C)
Second row: Charles Uhuru, Robert Aziku
Back Row: Mike Otto, Desire Ayera, Eliphaz Emong
Half Backs: Aaron Ofoyrwoth, Ivan Magomu
Centres: Pius Ogena, Michael Wokorach
Wingers: Adrian Kasito, Robert Masendi
Fullback: Phillip Wokorach
Reserves: Faraji Odugo, Ivan Kabagambe, Collins Kimbowa, Simon Olet, Kelvin Balagadde, Paul Epilo, Eric Mula, Daudi Semwami.