Elgon Cup under-19 category could yet be a shot in the arm

Rugby Cranes coach Peter Magona recently told your columnist that he believes his side is just a win away from unleashing the potential it apparently brims with. After a four-game losing streak, the national rugby union team got its break last weekend thanks to a consummate 21-14 win over the old foe Kenya in the first leg of the Elgon Cup.The second leg was played yesterday well before this column was punched out, and so yours truly cannot quite deliberate whether the Rugby Cranes have made a clean break or not. What I can sure-footedly dwell upon is how the introduction of an under-19 category to the Elgon Cup menu could prove to be pivotal.

Player retention is Ugandan rugby’s greatest Achilles heel. Players that the schools rugby conveyor belt ushers into the Ugandan rugby factory never stay the course. Arrows in the countless Trojan wars Rugby Cranes has featured in have dealt the team a fatal blow by wounding its heel. Delving further into greek mythology, you could say that Rugby Cranes’ mother, Uganda Rugby Union (Thetis, if you like), plunged the team in the Styx, making it invulnerable save for the heel by which she held it.

Fortunately, the Elgon Cup’s under-19 category could turn out to be the proverbial stitch in time that saves nine. It could help ensure that the up-and-comers stay the course. Up-and-coming young players have not been in the business of sticking around. The Rugby Cranes side that took to the pitch at Kyadondo Rugby Club last weekend vindicates the prior statement.

Only three players (Justin Kimono, Oscar Kalyango and Ronald Musajjagulanyago) from the under-19 team of 2009 featured in that 21-14 win. Whatever happened to the other players! Well, I’ll tell you what happened: they got disinterested because of, among other things (like poor facilitation as the once-upon-a-time openside flanker, Kenneth Rubango told your columnist) a lack of activity. There were no tournaments worth the salt to ensure that up-and-comers cleaved together. The Elgon Cup could well address this lack of cohesion.

It could help keep the fire of Uganda’s up-and-comers burning. It sure gives them a blue ribbon fixture to look forward to.

Ultimately, this coupled with other activities that the Uganda Rugby Union has up its sleeves ( a university league for one) should be able to this time round keep together the current under-19 team together and ensure that it wholly graduates to the Rugby Cranes ranks.

The Baby Cranes as the under-19 is affectionately known were impressive in their 15-10 first leg win over Kenya at Kyadondo Rugby Club. The likes of Al-Hajji Manano and Ivan Magomu stepped up to the plate. Regardless of what happened in the return leg played in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi yesterday, as well as the question marks about the age of some of the players (surprise, surprise!), this team should be kept intact. If this does materialise, expect Ugandan rugby to sport a formidable heel.

Power hoping critics eat humble pie, but will they pull up short?

Comment. Power always mean business in the post-season. Something subtle galvanises the team. Not this time round, some critics seem to think.

Countless examples have led Ugandan basketball enthusiasts to buy into the philosophy that speaks of a sharp distinction existing between the regular season and the post-season. Record league champions Falcons exampled this last year with a sensational run in the post-season following a shocking regular season display that invited ridicule from many.

The regular season does speak of problems only insofar as they are a wake-up call. Tiger Head Power have not had that bad a regular season thus far. They sit pretty in third position on the log of the men’s top division.

Some of their new signings like Paul Odong have in fact caught the eye. Why then does it seem like there is something of an uneasy calm in their ranks?

A semblance of tranquility has of course never been Power’s calling card. The presence of combustible personalities in the team has always predisposed Power to skirmishes.

Poor Bernes Ankunda’s voice is always drowned out at timeouts. These bouts of unpremeditated fighting have not quite hurt Power. The team’s haul of five league titles is only bettered by Falcons. ower always mean business in the post-season. Something subtle galvanises the team. Not this time round, some critics seem to think.

It’s early days yet, but the aforementioned critics reckon they have seen enough to suggest that Power will make up the numbers in the post-season. Last Friday, the five-time champions were comprehensively beaten by a Riham Warriors side that had until recently fallen on lean times. oint guard Ivan Enabu was Power’s chief tormentor. This had a dramatic, if tragic, irony about it as Enabu was early this year unveiled by Power as one of many marquee signings.

A pingpong between Power and Warriors ensued with the latter turning out victorious. This denied Power a proven match winner and did little to assuage fears of the club’s faithful in the aftermath of Ben Komakech’s departure to City Oilers.

The marquee signings who were no barred for joining Power have had a symbolism that has jarred with the realism in the field of play. They have certainly struck a jarring note with big man Philip Ameny set to serve a lengthy ban for flouting Fuba rules (he is serving an eight-game ban for featuring for a club in DR Congo while signed to the books of Power) and Dullah Ramathan blowing hot and cold (he scored only two points during a tough display against his former paymasters, Falcons).

Writing off Power’s chances — certainly this early in the season — is not judicious though. In Norman Blick, Joseph Ikong and Isaac Afidra, the club has veterans of many post-season battles. And besides, the post-season is still a long way off. Power is hardly a basket case.

City Oilers and Falcons set the bar high without doubt. Power, though, always seem to get into its element when it’s written off. The loss against Vegetarians may have turned the five-time champions into a laughing stock, but they could yet have the last laugh.

A lot of patching up will need to be done to dress the five-time champions’ title credentials in veneration.

What we now know…. We know that the 2014 Commonwealth Games will get underway on Wednesday next week with an opening ceremony at Celtic Park.

The games will run until August 3 with 261 events, spanning 17 sports disciplines, taking centre-stage. Big names, we know, won’t be in short supply with Jamaica set to showcase many including Usain Bolt who is expected to bring the baton home for his island country in the 100 metres relay.Uganda is one of 71 nations that will field a team at the Games. We know that 72 Ugandan athletes have made the trip to Glasgow, Scotland. Ugandan boxers have enjoyed a rich vein of form at the Commonwealth Games.

It’s on this basis that we know, or rather hope, that the five Ugandan boxers set to take to the ring in Glasgow will cover themselves in glory. Rogers Ssemitala will captain the Bombers as Uganda’s national boxing team is known. We also know that all Ugandan eyes will be on Winnie Nanyondo who has proven to be adept at running the middle-distance track event of 800 metres.

Moses Kipsiro, on a wildcard, will be hoping to defend his 5,000 and 10,000 metres titles, but don’t expect much from the injury-plagued athlete. And, oh, there will be no Stephen Kiprotich. The marathoner opted against featuring at the Games.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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