Almost a fortnight ago, Buzz sponsored Black Pirates broke their ten-year hoodoo to win some silverware in the form of Uganda Cup, after defeating the cup’s defending champions, Hima Cement Heathens, 31-20 in a very entertaining game that left revelers reeling for more.
The wait for local rugby is now over as the Nile Special Rugby Premiership is coming back to local stadia this weekend. The trophy is currently in the hands of the Hima Cement Heathens who were crowned champions with two games to spare in the league. Nevertheless, there are numerous questions that linger over the new season and who will run away with the title come April 2018.
The Hima Cement Heathens are the defending champions but will they be able to retain the title and keep it out of the hands of the Kampala Rugby Club teams? The hard tackling Kyadondo side we a very impressive unit in the last campaign with blossoming displays from Cox Muhigwa, skipper Romano Ogwal, Aaron Ofoiwroth, Vincent Mose and the veterans Allan Otim, Bishop Onen putting in admirable shifts. The story might have to differ this season. They looked to get on just fine without playmaker Philip Wokorach last season but it is an evident worse situation now. Heathens have lost a host first team players to the recent Kenya expedition i.e. halfback Aaron Ofoiwroth to Kenya Harlequins, Front rower Asuman Mugerwa to Kabras Sugar who is uniting with Philip Wokorach. Vincent Mose returned to Impala Saracens two years earlier than had been disclosed. Brian Kikaawa found solace in Germany after he aborted the 7s camp after the Oktober Fest games in late September. It is uncertain how long flanker Cox Muhigwa will be out as he rehabilitates his arm. The Heathens were exposed by Buffaloes and Pirates in the last rounds of the Uganda Cup and if anything is to go by, it will not be an easy campaign for them, and certainly not an easy title to defend. Then again, Heathens are the second most successful side in Uganda and that is a statistic worthy of remembering. They’ll be playing to retain the title.
Black Pirates haven’t lost a 15s game to Kobs or Heathens since the year’s turn and the atmosphere around the Kampala Rugby Club side is up in the skies with the belief that the team has finally come of age and can rack up a host of accolades. Pirates recently won their first trophy in 10 years and the flair-exhibiting, free flowing contingent are looking to dismantle the duopoly of Kobs and Heathens. Undoubtedly, Coach Musinguzi has the most exciting squad with many young lads given the chance to express themselves and flourish, under the experienced and watchful eye of veteran Dennis Etuket. In the absence of Marvin Odong, Ivan Magomu is looking as comfortable as ever as the skipper of this team. Ivan had an amazing international season with the Rugby Cranes and now Pirates fans will hope for him to extend that form from the Cranes and Uganda Cup to the Nile Special Premiership. Half back and first choice kicker, Conrad Wanyama, was kept out of the better part of last season with an injury but will need to have a healthy campaign if he is to help his mates mount a serious title challenge. Musa Muwonge looks to be the man calling the decisions in the pack in the absence of Marvin Odong. There’s a plethora of young exciting lads in the team that all lovers of rugby in the country want to see have a go at the title challenge. This particular trophy has eluded Pirates and Coach Bobby hopes this is the year his lads will break the dry spell.
The Betway Kobs have traded the Rugby premiership between themselves and the Hima Cement Heathens over the years like a toddler picking up the remote when the other is out of the room. Question is, will they take the premiership from Kyadondo, and back into their cabinet? Most recently, they let a 17 point half time lead slip against Pirates in the Uganda Cup with the latter winning the trophy a week later against Heathens. Captain Asaba was rocked with injury spells last year denying him a 100% effective campaign, lest we forget, James Ijongat who wasn’t at his best, no thanks to a horrific leg injury. Oscar Kalyango was relegated to the stands and touchline commentary too because of injury. There were cameos of sprinter Justin Kimono too, but only for the junior side, Boks. It is a fresh campaign and it would be foolhardy to count out the master betters. Even with Joseph Aredo touting the Kenya exodus bus and settling in at Kenya Harlequins and speed merchant, Keith Seruyange in Wales, the blue poets are serious contenders. Kobs now have Rugby 7s darling match winner, Adrian Kasiito at full back and he is an exciting addition, and more than decent replacement for Aredo. Maybe, after a long while, rugby will get to have a fully fit and functional Justin Kimono. James Ijongat looks to be back to his old line-breaking self, as the Kobs will need only that version of James to be able to keep tabs on any of their title challengers. The loss of utility, Ramathan Govule to Germany is a huge blow and it is going to be a huge gap for the bench players to cover up. Kobs are literally the elite side of all the Kampala Rugby Club sides and they will be ready for the challenge.
Are the Shell Rimula Rhinos the ultimate underdogs in this year’s title bout? It may not be a name that would roll of your tonge with ease if one asked you about the crème de la crème of Ugandan Rugby but after splashing the oil money on ridiculous talent i.e. Daudi “Muscle” Ssemwami, Scott Oluoch, Mathias Ochwo, Arinaitwe Stallone and Oketayot Byron Morgan and celebrated coach, Brian Makalama; it surely is the time they should be reaping the dividends of this expenditure. Daudi almost begged the ground to swallow him in their Uganda Cup Quarter Finals clash against Kobs after a schoolboy error denied his side the chance at the penultimate round. There had been concerns about the status of Stallone’s head and where his loyalties lay but it has been put to bed and the utility back is settled in at Rhinos and ready to lead his side forward. Whether Byron Oketayot has fully recovered from his shoulder injury in time for the league is a small bit of headache Coach Makalama has to deal with while sorting out his team’s priorities. Rhinos will need a fully fit and settled Byron Atubikire in the backline if they are to make sense of this campaign.
Kobs, Pirates, Heathens and Rhinos are the four teams everyone will hope to battle to the death for this year’s crown and it already promises to be a mouthwatering season.