RUGBY BEST OF DECADE
Ugandan rugby bounced in the 2010s after the collapse at the end of the 2000s and beginning of this decade left many fearing the worst. There were many factors responsible for the comeback, principally the emergence of a crop of talented youngsters, who combined with some of the greats of the 2007 CAR winning team to get the sport back on the right track. Here is the top 15 of the decade, starting with least to the greatest.
15. Lawrence Ssebuliba
Granted his game betrayed the marks of a latecomer but Lawrence Ssebuliba’s explosiveness and tackling were superb. His contribution to the Rugby Cranes revival and Sevens rise cannot be questioned.
14. Davis Kiwalabye
He is small but Davis Kiwalabye was no pushover. A scrum half who struggled with his kicking skills, Kiwalabye compensated with rapid ball recycling, sharp observation, solid defending and hard tackling.
13. Ronald Adigas
He was not only a solid prop who anchored the scrums but a powerful ball-carrier for Rugby Cranes. His career highlight – winning the CAR championship – came in the decade before last but his class did not end there.
12. Charles Uhuru
He started as a Baby Cranes star but soon distinguished himself with his work rate and his commanding jumps in the lineouts that saw him promoted to the national team. He did not look back once he got to the Cranes.
11. Romano Ogwal
The former U19's lock graduated to the Rugby Cranes with great success. Romano Ogwal’s speed and aggressiveness were terrifying, making him an obvious selection in the early going of the national sevens team. He helped Uganda win the Elgon Cup before retiring from the sport.
10. Ivan Magomu
Stylish and skillful, Ivan Magomu has been a perfect office bearer for one of the game’s marquee positions. More importantly, Magomu is a winner and his presence with the Rugby Cranes has played a crucial role in the team’s revival while his part in Black Pirates historic 2018 league championship can’t be exaggerated.
9. Paul Kabazzi
The inside centre was a crucial part of the 2012 Rugby Cranes Elgon Cup victory and starred for the Black Pirates although the club’s historic 2018 championship came a little too late for a player who retired to focus on his medical profession.
8. Justin Kimono
He scored two tries on his debut against Zimbabwe in 2011 and a long line of victims was expected to follow but injuries and put paid to most of Justin Kimono promise. Nevertheless, what a joy Kimono was to behold when he was healthy and fully fit.
7. Michael Wokorach
He was one of the most reliable faces for the national 15s and sevens, a machine-like force that could score, tackle and handle the ball with ease. He was a centre of immaculate quality.
6. Scott Oluoch
A physical specimen of a forward, Scott Oluoch crossed over to the Rugby Cranes after failing to break through into his native Kenyan national side. What a huge gain he proved to be for the Cranes, inspiring Uganda to Elgon Cup's success. Of course, he was always motivated by his meetings with Kenya.
5. Marvin Odongo
He has had his fair share of long-term injuries but Marvin Odong still qualifies as one of the last decade’s top national rugby stars. Incredibly skillful, Odong is a match-winner with exquisite running, ball-carrying and line-out capabilities. But for his injuries he would have done more. Still, he did enough for a place here.
4. Brian Odongo
Named captain by then national coach Peter Magona in 2014, Brian Odong led the Rugby Cranes for four years, sparking the revival of a team that had met with hard times. On and off the pitch, he was the perfect leader for the Cranes, complementing his refined public relations with an ever-dependable game. Solid in the scrum and safe with the ball, Odong is the only prop to be voted MVP by USPA.
3. Alexander Mubiru
He is undoubtedly the best hooker the country has ever had, possessed of an accurate line-out throw and a gutsy fight in the scrums. A member of the legendary CAR title winning side, and winner of multiple titles on the local front, Alex Mubiru captained the Elgon Warriors in 2012 and Rugby Cranes in 2013 before retiring from international rugby in 2017.
2. Mathias Ochwo
Popularly known as Matayo, Mathias Ochwo was an incredible servant of rugby and the Rugby cranes, in particular, doing duty for two decades. Ochwo was fearless, a do-it-all who was excellent at fetching and carrying the ball, tacking, line-outs, among others. A 2007 CAR winner, Ochwo helped Uganda win the Elgon Cup twice in the 2010s.
A full back of great skill and heart, Philip Wokorach had to overcome two gruesome knee injuries in the last decade, on either knee. It is a testament to the character and talent of the fullback that he bounced back to reach unfathomable heights both in the 15s and sevens, with individual accolades in both formats becoming the norm and World Cup appearance in the sevens format the ultimate reward for his brilliance. He completed the decade by moving to French Division 5 side Bourges XV, which he hopes will be the beginning of the best part of his career.