KAMPALA. The curtain came down on the first round of the Nile Rugby Premiership yesterday with a blue-riband showdown between eternal rivals Heathens and Kobs at Kyadondo rugby club. For once, though, the club rugby narrative hasn’t been all about the two. The so-called minnows have planted a flag at the heart of the topflight rugby league.
Stunning defeats suffered by Kobs (against Sadolin Mongers) and Heathens (at the hands of EzeeMoney Rhinos) threatened the status quo.
The duopoly of Kobs and Heathens may not quite face an existential threat, but it has nonetheless been refreshing seeing the two on tenterhooks. Indeed, the heavy-duty competition rugby fans have witnessed is markedly different from the lopsided results fashioned by last season’s first round. Gone are the yawning chasms. Taking their place have been topsy-turvy, tighter score-lines like the 10-10 draw between Mongers and Heathens and Rhinos’ 14-13 smash-and-grab win over Mongers. These edge-of-the-seat storylines have been authored by players who will be hoping to get their foot in the door when the national rugby team’s itinerary starts to take shape.
Adrian Wasswa, whose kicking knocked the stuffing out of Kobs, has once again put up his hand. Rugby Cranes failed to boss the CAR Division 1B tournament mid this year after Kevin Makmot and Bishop Onen failed to get a dial on the posts. Wasswa’s lethal boot has been widely regarded as the antidote to Uganda’s kicking woes.
The Mongers inside centre is of course much more than kicking. He is a good ball carri-er with pace to burn, decent hands, and a good defence (that fuses tackling, positioning plus awareness). Built like a tank, Wasswa can create space for the No.10 and No.13 to thrive with his trademark big hits. A former Rugby Cranes coach once described the youngster as someone who is a little rough around the edges. His towering performances in the first round have shown that his club coach, Robert Powell, is polishing him.
The first round was of course not just about Wasswa. Rhinos’ tighthead prop, Martial Tchumkam, piled one propping masterclass on the back of another. Tchumkam has been the rock that keeps the right-hand side of Rhinos’ scrum up. The tighthead showed such incredible strength in staying square as Rhinos beat Heathens at their own game during a marginal 6-5 win.
Tchumkam is the personification of a hybrid prop. He’s basically in the middle of a con-tinuum that has and old-fashioned prop at one end and gainline breaking prop at the other.
The Rhinos captain has used his upper body strength to get stuck into tackles as well as make a ‘nuisance’ of himself at either the bottom of a ruck or middle of a maul.
It’s so hard to believe that when Tchumkam set foot in Uganda from his native Congo Brazzaville a few years ago, he had no inkling about rugby. All he wanted to be was a footballer. That all changed when he took the oval ball in his grasp. He caused the Kenyan pack loads of problems during the first leg of this year’s Elgon Cup before he was curiously denied entry into Kenya to feature in the return leg (which Uganda lost heavily).
During his infant days as a rugby player, Tchumkam played as a loosehead and he did well to get into gaps. Transiting for a loosehead to tighthead wasn’t supposed to be this easy for Tchumkam. Tighthead is one of the most difficult positions to play yet Tchumkam has taken to it like a duck to water. Other top performers in the first round worth a mention include Dan Canowira who has added steel to Pirates’ underbelly (the tight five) and Impis flyhalf, Henry Nsekuye. The second round cannot start soon enough!
SOURCE: Daily Monitor