Alex Aturinda during Uganda Rugby Sevens training Credit: Hamala Edgar

As the Nile Special Stout Rugby Premier League remains at a standstill amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, hope is not lost that the season will be completed.

According to a statement released by the Uganda Rugby Union recently, the league was due to resume as early as May 2 but that won’t be possible as the government extended the lockdown to May 5.

With thirteen rounds played and just five pending, we have probably seen enough from the competition to tell the best signings, most improved players, and best players of the season by position or otherwise.

Heathens returnees Joseph Oyet and Scott Oluoch as well as Emmanuel Byamugisha who has excelled in the league leaders’ stuffed forward line, Kobs’ scrum-half Ivan Kirabo and makeshift flanker AlHaji Manano, Pirates’ loose forward Alex Aturinda just to mention will pop up if you scan through the league for the most impressive and consistent performers.

A lot may change if and when the remaining five fixtures are played but most likely not the top three positionings on the log. Heathens are destined to defend the title, Kobs seem comfortable in second place and Pirates have pretty much sealed a top-three finish and have an outside chance of second-place.

It would be interesting to take a look at how things could turn out at the bottom with Makerere Impis, Shell Rimula Rhinos and MRI Rams (if I may add) battling for survival but my focus in this article is players’ performance, precisely the best player of the season.

Coming into the 2019-20 season, it was clear that the international calendar for sevens and fifteens was staked and clubs that contribute majority of the players especially to the sevens national side would be affected.

The national sevens team engagements have seen Pirates miss the services of loose forward Desire Ayera, center Isaac Massa and fly-half William Nkore for majority of the season. Off-season signings Alex Aturinda (Walukuba Barbarians), Michael Amolo (Jinja Hippos) and Stephen Alul (Toyota Buffaloes) walked right into the Sea Robbers team in places of the trio but none has been impressively consistent as Aturinda.

Pirates haven’t been anywhere near as dominant compared to what they were two seasons ago when they swept all the silverware. In fact, Pirates started the league poorly, losing three games in the first six outings, but loose forward Aturinda didn’t let his standards dip.

Credit: John Batanudde

Aturinda has been the standout player for an ever-improving Pirates side that has strung together seven consecutive wins, and the 22-year-old is going at a serious rate of improvement, quickly establishing himself as one of the best in the business.

The eighth-man who has a fantastic carrying ability has started in all of the Pirates’ fixtures and done so with devastating impact with ball in hand. While advanced player stats are not tracked in our league, Aturinda is without a doubt among the top for running meters, line breaks and tackle busts for loose forwards and stands as a genuine prospect for Rugby Cranes selection starting this year.

Aturinda regularly excels at the base of the scrum, forming part of a well-balanced Pirates back-row next to silent killer Humphrey Tashobya or Ivan Cadri and Kelvin Balagadde though he still has issues with electing to pick up or not.

A class act in attack and unrelenting in defence, Aturinda has been one of the most important players for Bobby Musinguzi on the field in the short time he has been at King’s Park. The big marauder, who can switch on to attack or defence instantaneously, is able to tackle anyone and has done so in a wide variety of situations.

It’s only Aturinda’s second season playing in the top-flight and has a lot to learn as far as decision making and passing are concerned but has demonstrated he is not just one for the future but now.

Franklin Kaweru is the Editor in Chief of Kawowo Sports. He is an ardent basketball enthusiast.

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