- Elgon Cup 1st Leg
- Uganda vs. Kenya – 4:00pm, Legends
June 5 last year evokes no good memories for Ugandan rugby. The Rugby Cranes suffered their heaviest defeat in competitive rugby in a 48-10 loss to neighbours Kenya in the first leg of the Elgon Cup at Legends Rugby Grounds.
A year later, the result still haunts the 2007 African champions and the chance to avenge that loss avails itself Saturday afternoon at the the same venue in the first leg of this year’s Elgon Cup.
“It’s a new year and we have set goals we have to meet,” Rugby Cranes coach John Duncan told Kawowo Sports ahead of the clash.
With revenge the wish for every Ugandan, the game is considered a do-or-die affair by many but coaches John Duncan and Robert Sseguya want to use it as a precursor for the Africa Gold Cup.
The Africa Gold Cup will get underway on June 24 when Uganda visit Kenya and that is where most of the concentration will be.
“Our target is the Africa Cup. The Elgon Cup gives us chance to try out different things,” Seguya, who believes Uganda have a larger pool of players to choose from this time round, revealed.
The players are oozing with confidence ahead of the derby and only a win will make sense at the end of the day.
“We intend to fire from all cylinders. We are going all out as a team,” eighth man Marvin Odong revealed ahead of the game.
The Kenyan team arrived in Kampala on Thursday and has had two light sessions at the game venue.
Joshua Chisanga, who plies his trade at UK side Newcastle Falcons, expects a big game that will keep the fans off their feet for the bigger part of the day.
“Uganda is a good side and any game against them will be a tough one,” Chisanga, who made his debut against Uganda in 2013, revealed.
Chisanga spent his school days in Uganda where he, alongside Ugandan full back Philip Wokorach and flyhalf Ivan Magomu, led Hanah International School to Schools’ league glory.
While announcing the team to feature against Kenya, Seguya made it clear that the team was only selected for this particular game and those left out still have a chance to play a part in the Gold Cup.
Former Rugby Cranes captain Mathias Ochwo is joined by Ronald Musajjagulanyago, 2015 half back pairing of Kevin Makmot and Chris Lubanga, Ramathan Govule, James Injongat, Arthur Mpande, Gerald Ssewankambo, John Wandicho and Eric Kasiita on the sidelines and could be called upon after Saturday.
Ivan Kirabo and Robert Aziku will be handed full debuts with the former pairing with Ivan Magomu in a new-look halfback partnership.
Adnan Mutebi, Musa Muwonge, Aaron Ofoyrwoth and Eric Mula are the other uncapped players in the squad and will await their chance from the bench.
Since taking charge of the side in 2015, Duncan and Sseguya have exhibited the ability to take risks and give chance to the young lads.
This year will not be any different. With Davis Kiwalabye, Makmot and Lubanga out of the team, the half back positions will be taken up by the new kids on the block.
Magomu, who scored on his debut in Nairobi last year, will partner Kirabo in the new halfback combo that has not been tested on the big stage.
Kirabo had an impressive season with Kenyan league side Kabras Sugar. On the fringes will be last season’s league sensation Aaron Ofoyrwoth who can play at any of the two halfback positions.
“Kirabo has been playing in a strong league and showed in the trial games that he is ready for the slot,” Seguya said of Kirabo’s rise to the number 9 position.
The other new combination will be in the midfield where Pius Ogena, who played as a flanker last year, has been converted to fill the inside center gap left by the injured Oscar Kalyango.
Ogena will pair with Michael Wokorach in the midfield while Eric Mula will be his understudy.
Sseguya believes Ogena is a better player at center than at the flank. “Ogena is going to be deadly at first center. He is aware of what to do and he has been working on his new role,”
Wokorach has no issues with his new partner and believes execution of what has been done in training will give the Cranes victory.
“We have been practicing together and we can combine well. We are ready to play,” said Wokorach, who got his 30th cap in last year’s reverse fixture.
After sitting out 2015 and 2016 with injury, winger Justin Kimono is back to the national team fold.
His return completes the Rugby Cranes lethal backline that also features Lawrence Ssebuliba, Michael and Philip Wokorach.
Also returning to the team is former captain Alex Mubiru and back-row Scot Oluoch.
Probable line up
Asuman Mugerwa, Alex Mubiru, Brian Odong, Charles Uhuru, Robert Aziku, Brian Asaba, Scot Oluoch, Marvin Odong, Ivan Kirabo, Ivan Magomu, James Odong, Pius Ogena, Michael Wokorach, Lawrence Ssebuliba, Philip Wokorach.
Cyrus Wathum, Collin Kimbowa, Adnan Mutebi, Byron Oketayot, Musa Muwonge, Aaron Ofoyrwoth, Justin Kimono, Eric Mula.