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Rugby: Take-aways aplenty from 2023 Sevens season

Pirates and Heathens players battle for the ball during the Kyabazinga sevens at Bugembe stadium last weekend

Pirates and Heathens players battle for the ball during the Kyabazinga sevens at Bugembe stadium last weekend

Action in domestic rugby is expected to take a two months break now, following the conclusion of the 2023 sevens season over the

It was the Kyabazinga sevens circuit in Bugembe, Jinja that brought the curtain down on what has been a gripping championship. However, while it was the Stanbic Black Pirates and their sister club, the Black Pearls that emerged the 2023 men and women’s champions respectively, the sevens season left so many talking points.

First and foremost, the Uganda Rugby Union (URU) has over the last five or so years been criticized for sidelining women’s rugby, and giving it backwater treatment.

The girls and women were rarely brought to the frontline of the sport. Previously, at every sevens championship, it was only the boys and men that played, and had their games on TV. However, this time, at each of the seven circuits that covered the entire season, women’s teams also competed, meeting one of the major outcries that former national women’s rugby team coach, Helen Buteme has been making.

This time, she was one of the major protagonists in the Sevens championship. Not just as a coach as before, but also as a player. This platform has given a host of girls an opportunity to showcase their talents and improve them because of the competition exposed to.

But even beyond that, the girls’ challenges have been highlighted. For example, a one Harriet Nansereko of the Lady Pacers rugby club, aged 15, played barefooted at Bugembe. Yet, she was undoubtedly a good rugby player. This led to the rugby fraternity to raise money for her to get rugby playing boots.

This will inevitably boost this young girl’s drive to aspire even more, to become better. Becoming better is what Pirates’ coach Marvin Odongo has been saying about his charges on end. The Sea-Robbers have proved that by being the most consistent men’s team, winning three of the seven circuits.

Of those, they were in five finals. National Sevens team coach Tolbert Onyango went ahead to say it is because of Pirates’ good application, that they dominate the national team today.

Onyango added: “But at the same time, this sevens season has eased my selection headache. Now, I am sure I have at least 24 top players from Pirates, Kobs, Heathens, Rhinos, Hippos, Mongers and Buffaloes. Previously the sample size was too small for my liking.”

On the other hand, Onyango ad- vised clubs not to restrict themselves to only using a few players because they will burn out. In addition, Heathens coach Muhammed Athiyo felt that this year’s sevens season has shown how much many teams have improved now. That is why you have had a season where even sides like Walukuba Barbarians win a circuit, just as Jinja Hippos were overall champions last year.

In a nutshell, Athiyo noted that they have work to do, to close the gap Pirates has created. Athiyo noted that Pirates has developed its players like Jones Kamiza and Douglas Komakech. They can now afford to be without the more established stars. Heathens also has Malcolm Okello, Julius Oyuk and Emma Ochan to watch!

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