Dear diary, it is 119 days without rugby. Shall the season ever return? That is an answer even the powers that be seem not to have. The Corona Virus pandemic prompted the government an Uganda Rugby Union to postpone all activities.
Be that as it may, the rugby players and the atmosphere are the reason we want this sport back. We haven’t even forgotten about you all. We actually are thinking of you more than “NOT FOR SALE” government-issued masks.
The 100 plus days have worked in the favor of some like Adrian Kasito who has fully recovered from injury. 9 Barrels Warriors utility back Kihumuro Ruben is also knocking on the door and wants back in the action.
Before we ever see any rugby again if we do, I want to welcome your debate on this list of the most influential and most valuable oval ballplayers before the announcement on 18th March ever happened..
1. Joseph Oyet (Hima Cement Heathens)
It is arguably 24 months of the best rugby Joseph Oyet has ever played in Uganda. Having left Heathens at the start of the 2018-2019 campaign to redefine himself with the Warriors, Oyet came back “home” to displace Trevor Ochan from his favored fullback position.
Oyet extrapolated his performances for Warriors and has been performing for the Heathens in an even more robust manner, and in so doing, being the highest scoring players before the league was suspended.
Joseph Oyet has had that much luck with the national team, having to battle for the coveted 15-jersey with France based Philip Wokorach and motorboat engine Adrian Kasito.
2. Alex Aturinda (Stanbic Black Pirates)
What a signing Alex has been! There reached a time the rugby folk were out of superlatives describing the backrower.
Aturinda’s transfer from the Walukuba Barbarians to the Bweyogerere based Black Pirates was just another of Coach Robert “Bobby” Musinguzi masterful chess moves.
Pirates, in recent years, have been boasting with excessive talent for the back row with the likes of Chadri, Rujumba, Musa Muwonge but the soft-spoken lad has made the base of the scrum his place. Forwards are not usually outspoken scorers but Alex hasn’t gone two games without a try. His rise has been so exponential that he need a callup to the National 7s setup, being part of the training squad for the World Challenger Series.
3. Emmanuel Ecodu (Betway Kobs)
The 2019-2020 campaign is the gift that kept on giving but not many were ready for the remold of Emmanuel Ecodu as a lock.
“Isn’t Ecodu a winger?” “What is going on at Kobs?” Those and many more questions were flown about but we were not just ready for what was to come. With Aziku Robert absent due to injury, Ecodu has made sure the former hasn’t been missed at all. And there is nothing as good as seeing a forward score a back’s try.
The workhorse in Ecodu came to light in every game he played and the grapevine was boiling with suggestions of his inclusion in the national team setup. FYI, Ecodu is a full international with the national 7s.
4. Bagalana Tawfiq (Jinja Hippos)
Once Jinja Hippos made their way out of the Eastside, through to the championship decider, and into the big boys’ yard, they haven’t looked back. Signs show they are not going back anytime soon. In that time one of the main fixtures has been Bagalana Tawfiq.
Lining up in the midfield, Bagalana has been that constant go-to guy for the rapid Hippos. He has proven the catalyst to their style of game, making the gaps before releasing his teammates or even scoring by himself.
After just one season up, he made it to the squad to play in the Safari 7s for Uganda. The 15s callup is still eluding the man but with the gaps at center for Uganda, the door seems to be wide open.
5. Emmanuel Kinyera (MRI Rams)
The name Emmanuel is featuring again. It must be a sign. His running mouth aside, Kinyera is having quite the season.
We are slowly moving away from expecting Rwakayanga and Lumu to be the light at Rams. Kinyera looks to be leading the new brigade.
Rams are where they are because of the magic feet of Kinyera. It is always a compliment to a team, to have a back that can goose step, score tries, and kick with ease. Kinyera can do it all. He is a good defender too. His fame skyrocketed after his brace helped Rams past Pirates at the Kings Park early in 2020.
6. Daudi “Muscle” Semwami (Betway Kobs)
Is it a train? Is it a plane? An airbus? No, it is Daudi Semwami. Betway Kobs picked themselves a diamond when they secured Daudi’s services.
Fresh out of his Nairobi deal with Harlequins Kobs added Daudi to their expensive wingers’ catalog. Tinkering saw Muscle push pocket rocket Justin Kimono to the center and making fulltime claim to the wing.
Muscle was the most explosive and in-form winger before the league was suspended prematurely with 11 five-pointers.His eye for the white line complements Kobs surge to throw Heathens off the lead of the table.
It has been a continuation of fine form for the winger, who made his national team debut in Uganda’s Elgon Cup win in Kisumu.
7. Stephen “Bujju” Alul (Black Pirates)
“Why on earth is heading to Kings Park?” “Pirates can never let a Kyadondo boy flourish.” Some of the many comments that flew about after Stephen switched Buffaloes for 2018 Champions, Black Pirates.
There has never been a more opportune move. With Pirates backs not readily available, Alul has had lots of playing time. Alul slotted in well for Ivan Magomu in his absentia to combine with the enigmatic Wanyama. On other days, it was Alul and Nkore William.
His versatility has seen him play in the full-back and center positions as much. His kicking complements his game and has been instrumental in Pirates’ recovery from the early season slumps.
8. Seguya Wilfred (Toyota Buffaloes)
Looking at this list so far, versatility is an asset. Wilfred is the General Secretary of Versatility. With the usual exodus of their Buffaloes, Seguya has been Buffaloes’ consistent performer.
I struggle to remember a time he has been rested. There are definitely times he hasn’t played 80 minutes but those are few.
Seguya can play across half of the positions in the backline and do the work while at it. The soft-spoken hard body has been deployed in the back row too. I dare you to bully him out of there. Did I mention that he has what we have come to call “an educated boot?”
9. Paul Angana (Plascon Mongers)
There is a section of rugby lovers that argue that Angana sent Chisano to injury town so he could get some shine. How true that is, your guess is as good as mine.
Angana is a halfback revelation. Mongers have been looking for a new generation to build their backline around and Paul could be just that.
For a small man, he has a high affinity for finding himself in compromising positions. From these positions, he has been able to score a number of tries, typical scrumhalf-escape-jail tries.
Wandicho is in exile, Chisano is mending limbs, Wasswa and Wakabi are giving way. Angana has been handed the armband on a number of occasions. He is coming of age.
10. Kinyai Richard (9 Barrels Warriors)
After parting ways with DusuPay, Warriors saw a number of stars walk away from the setup but not Kinyai.
Warriors started the season in a rich vein of form and a lot of it was thanks to Kinyai. Kinyai is your perfect soldier. He will not do what he has not been told to do.
His kicking game has gone a notch higher and he has found comfort on either flanks of the pitch and could strike from anywhere.
Dear diary, it is 119 days without rugby. Shall the season ever return? We shall keep watching Super Rugby Aotearoa and maybe AU as we wait. Dear God, when?