The 2015/2016 season was one of mixed fortunes for Ugandan rugby.
The season ended with the national 7s circuit in August this year.
Betway Kobs won the National Rugby League and also successfully defended the National 7s circuit title.
On the other hand, Hima Cement Heathens won the Uganda Cup beating Kobs 13-10 in the final.
Kobs ended the league with 77 points while traditional rivals Heathens finished second at 69.
The League and the national 7s circuit were successfully managed and there was an improvement in the officiation.
Heathens Philip Wokorach emerged the league top scorer having managed 17 tries, 6 penalties and 54 conversions for 211 points, but below the standard of a winger compared to his teammate Asuman Mugerwa, a prop who got 16 tries.
On the local scene, the Uganda Rugby Union (URU) had the men’s league and 7s circuit successfully organised.
Expanding the league from eight to 10 team created a big catchment for players who can make it to the national team.
Players like Byron Oketayot from Gulu Elephants and
Entebbe’s Mongers Elijah Ssegawa were identified for the national men’s team.
Uganda Women Rugby Associations (UWRA) deserve more credit for the job well done.
With little support from the URU and meager resources, UWRA had the women’s 15s aside league, 7s circuits, U-19 league for the 15s aside teams.
Thunderbirds won the women’s 15s aside league and 7s circuits while Sharks lifted the U-19 league for the 15s aside crown.
There were also training clinics and the effort was made to take the game countrywide.
National team players such Peace Wokorach, Grace Auma, Samiya Ayikoru, Emily Lekuru, Flavia Agenorwot, Gilder Azikuru, Juliet Nandawula, Peace Mirembe and Ritah Nadunga were identified.
Their work has seen the emergency of teams like Entebbe Sharks, Walukuba Titans, Police Tear Gas Jinja, Kitgum Girls giving a platform to age group competitions.
“Our target is to give children outside Kampala an opportunity to show their talent and indeed they have proved that they have the potential to join the national team,” UWRA secretary Helen Buteme stated.
UWRA chairperson Irene Namapi is hopeful that if resources are available, the formation of regional leagues would promote women rugby more which is the target for the new season.
On the international stage, the women’s team won the Masaku 7s, the Nakuru 7s in Kenya and also finished fourth in the Rugby Africa 7s in South Africa.
The team’s position in South Africa was an improvement from 7th place the previous year.
Buteme believes that if their plans for the game are implemented, Uganda can qualify for 2020 Olympics and World Cup.
Africa 7s title
Rugby Cranes won the Rugby Africa 7s title and will return to the Dubai 7s.
This could open opportunities for Ugandan players.
At the same time, remaining in the Rugby Africa Tier 1 A was also an achievement on the international scene.
Uganda beat Namibia 38-19 in the final to win the Rugby Africa 7s trophy.
The tournament also had Kenya, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Tunisia and Senegal.
However, URU has to address some issues if the sport is to develop.
In the past season, there was a drastic drop in the number of rugby playing schools and the standard of play.
No player emerged from the schools tournament like it has been in previous seasons. URU also failed to support UWRA to have girls rugby launched in schools by starting a league.
Elsewhere, after URU dissolved the Uganda Rugby Referees Society and formed the Kampala Referees Association, a number of referees quit the sport.
The number of referees in the National Rugby League reduced.
This season Uganda had an unimpressive campaign in the Africa U-19 event in Madagascar because the team was not managed well by URU.
Taking a half team to the tournament fully funded by the Rugby Africa was not a good move by the Andrew Owor led URU.
URU chief executive officer Ramsey Olinga said they face a big financial challenge to take care of various events including women’s programmes.
Uganda failed to send players to events like the Namibia 7s tournament.
Olinga said that they will lobby for support from the government and the private sector.
“There is nothing we can achieve without government support and that is why we shall keep lobbying for help,” Olinga stated.
He added that their sponsorship and marketing committee will work towards increasing the union’s financial base so as to carry out their activities better in future.
Olinga added that the union will have more training programmes for referees.
“We urge clubs to encourage their retired players to join refereeing as a way of giving back to the community,” Olinga said.