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Rugby: Women shine as men slumpPublish Date: Dec 18, 2013
Rugby: Women shine as men slump
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The Uganda women national team celebrate Elgon Cup victory over their Kenya counterparts.

By Douglas Mazune

The superstitious will take solace in the belief that 13 is an unlucky number as the rugby fraternity is, understandably, in a hurry to see off 2013 which brought unprecedented humiliation to the national team.

Rugby Cranes ego was thoroughly deflated by neighbours Kenya at the regional and continental levels — and a free-fall from Tier 1A to 1B came with dismal show.

What passed for the 2013 Nile Special Rugby Premier league was something else — a concoction of a ‘half league and Cup semifinals’ for lack of a better description.

The women had something to write home about.

Heathens still dominant

Local competitions were devoid of the usual high level competition but that should not deny the better organized MTN Heathens credit for the clean sweep.

Heathens won the shortened league which ended as soon as the fans had started enjoying, claimed the Uganda Cup whose format was criticized by many and lifted the Sevens Circuit in which rivals fielded second string sides.

Relegated XFM Impis did not organise this year’s edition of the Makerere 10s. Unlike the 2009 season when Heathens won everything through ‘sweat and blood’ this time it was much easier with only Toyota Buffaloes posing feeble resistance.

The league had only a single round and the top four played semifinals while the bottom four battled for the other positions.

Madagascar massacre

Rugby Cranes obliteration by Kenya in the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) Cup semifinal in Madagascar capped a terrible year for the Uganda national team.

Kenya whipped Uganda 52-11 in the semifinal and they went on to lose to Madagascar in the third place playoff, consequently suffering relegation to Tier B. Earlier on Ugandan franchise teams had lost to their Kenyan counterparts in the Bamburi Super SerieS and Elgon Cup.

The Cranes results in the CAR Sevens in Mombasa and Safari Sevens were nothing to write home about as well.

Women had decent outing

The women beat Kenya home and away to lift the Elgon Cup and came third in Reunion 7s.

They were second to South Africa in 15s World Cup Qualifier and finished third in the 7s World Cup qualifier in Tunisia. They narrowly missed a slot in the sevens World Cup.

Back to the drawing board

The Uganda Rugby Union (URU) has also introduced local franchise rugby, where clubs will combine to form stronger teams in the Uganda Rugby Super Series. URU president Andrew Owor explained that the Super Series will be played after the league and then build up to the East African Rugby Super Series.

It will, in 2014, grow into a Four Nations Rugby Super Series involving franchises from Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

“The sevens version of the game is expected to kick-off slightly before the super series and my advice to clubs is to start grooming separate sevens squads as the two categories of the sport will be played back to back,” Owor warned.

During the Super Series, URU will run the Under 20 category called the ‘Junior Cup’. This is expected to become a sustainable development initiative for the senior national teams.

Described by Owor as a ‘transition season’, 2013 has been a below par on the international scene and the situation was not helped by the so many changes in a short time. The jury is out there to see what value the changes add to the game.

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