The rugby cranes squad to play Kenya is named, and it is note-worthy that the squad has eight debutantes in line for Elgon Cup action.
The pack will have three new faces, while half of the back-line making the journey to Kenya are uncapped players.
Two of the eight debutantes for the Elgon Cup have been playing in Kenya i.e. Joseph Kagimu who plays with the Martials from USIU (United States International University-Africa, situated in Nairobi) and Daudi Ssemwami who plays with Kenya Harlequins.
Joseph Kagimu has played with USIU for the last at least 5 years but has had more than a chance to play in Uganda. Plascon Mongers have a special place in his heart and on two times with him on the team, they have beaten Pirates, and also beat Heathens for the first time ever in their history. Cutting the long story short, with Uganda in the picture, he is always set for big wins.
Kenya Harlequins signed Daudi Ssemwami in the 2017-2018 mid-season transfer window for Shell Rimula Rhinos, and after a few cameos and short stints due to injuries, Daudi has healed up fully and has made his way into the Harlequins back line, confirming his name as a starting winger.
“Grace of God led me here and I am grateful. I hope to give my best,” said a happy Daudi Semwami.
This consistent performance has been awarded with his first national team call up, which means it is only a matter of hours before he actually makes his debut. Daudi was part of a trial side (President’s XV) that took on Kagimu Joseph’s USIU who were on a Ugandan tour.
“I think playing for Uganda is so different than club but I am hopeful we shall challenge in all areas.”
“I am not really worried about the guys they are fielding. I believe I have been given a chance and the trust of my teammates so I will do my best to repay that faith and work together as team Uganda and play what’s in front of us, said a buoyant Semwami about the prospect of coming up against Kenya Cup players in the Elgon Cup.
The other six debutantes play their club rugby in Uganda and of the six, four play with National team champions Hima Cement Heathens i.e. Paul Epillo, Paul Masendi, Jordan Bongomin and Ronald Kanyanya. Desire Ayera of the Black Pirates and Maxwell Ebonga of the Jinja Hippos are the other debutantes set for Elgon Cup.
Paul Epillo was just another player at Kyadondo rugby club alongside many other until they inspired Buffaloes to home & away wins (they share the field but … ) against Heathens in the 2017-2018 Nile Special Premiership. Such plaudits saw him switch to Heathens in September 2018 and he has been Heathens most consistent performer since. He, like Semwami, was was part of a trial side (President’s XV) that took on Kagimu Joseph’s USIU who were on a Ugandan tour.
“It’s every sportsman’s dream to represent their country. I have worked hard, taken advice from my superiors-coaches and fellows players alike and I am glad I was selected to compete for Uganda,” said Paul Epillo.
The prospect of playing alongside Heathens teammates is one Epillo argues makes it easier for him on his debut as he will be playing alongside seven other Hima Cement Heathens in the team.
“I think the national team comes with pressure to perform but playing alongside fellow Heathens kind of reduces this tension because I know we have each other’s backs. We have played lots of games together and this is just another game, though at a different level,” said Paul Epillo when he spoke with Kratos Sports.
Paul Masendi, Jordan Bongomin and Ronald Kanyanya are the other Heathens debutantes. All three are Premiership champions this season where Kanyanya made many forget about Alex Mubiru. His attack is just as lethal as his defense. Jordan enjoyed a good game in March against the French Pacific Military Army scoring two tries, and also took part in the friendly against USIU. Masendi recently made his first national team appearance with the 7s team at the Hong Kong 7s and now will be making outings with the 15s team.
Desire Ayera is finally making the 15s team. It is a move that’s been long overdue. Ayera made his way into the national 7s team in 2017 winning the Africa 7s that year in Kampala before becoming a mainstay through Cape Town, Dubai, Hong Kong and the Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco. Ayera was very instrumental in Pirates triple threat sweep in the 2017-2018 season and was in May part of the U20 team that represented Uganda in the Barthes Tournament.
The eighth debutante is Jinja Hippos dazzling Maxwell Ebonga. The dizzy-footed speedster starred for Uganda against the French Pacific Army in March and also took part in the friendly against USIU. Maxwell propelled the Hippos to the premiership two years ago and they have never looked they will be facing relegation any time soon. He was part of the team that won the Uganda Cup-Shield competition in October last year.