The rugby culture in Uganda can be described as one where “til death do us apart” vows are made when players enter the predominantly amateur club rugby space. And it is a similar trend internationally, where it is common to see lots of praise heaped on one-club players.
A greater proportion of rugby players in Uganda have had lengthy careers with only one club while a few others left their clubs before the fans could even get accustomed to seeing them in their team colours. There are numerous reasons for this nomadic trend including finances, disagreements within the club, jobs and school in far off places, among others.
Here, we look at these individuals who have defied the normal and plied their trade for different rugby clubs in Uganda and all over the world. The gentlemen, and lady, who simply went about enjoying themselves in the sport and were not afraid to swap friends for foes on the pitch.
Let’s dive in!
George Scott Oluoch
By far, Scott Oluoch is the definition of a Uganda rugby journeyman. He has played for 8 clubs over a career that spans 16 years, some for whom, he has featured more than once.
Oluoch’s open age rugby career kicked off with a short stint with Mwamba RFC in Kenya as a teenager in 2002 before he came to Uganda for university education at Makerere University.
While at Makerere, Oluoch played briefly for Impis RFC in the inter-university games, and the following year, he made his way to Kampala Rugby Club – now Legends Rugby Club – where he joined Kobs.
However, every time he went back home for holidays, he would turn out for Mwamba RFC, a trend which continued until he concluded his education around 2008.
After that, he crossed to a place that would later become home sweet home by signing for Heathens. And it is here that he rose to the summit of Ugandan rugby. At the end of the 2009 season, he was named season MVP and also bagged the USPA Rugby Player of the Year award.
Oluoch then made a shock move to Black Pirates in August 2011 as a free agent for just the Uganda Cup that year. It goes without saying that with this move, he joined the exclusive club of the very few individuals to have played for the 3 great rivals Kobs, Heathens and Black Pirates.
In 2013, Oluoch signed for Kobs and became blue again. And 3 years later, he switched blue for yellow with a one-year move to fresh moneybags Rhinos where he spent 3 years until January 2019.
Kenya Harlequins would be the next stop where he stayed for 9 months until October 2019 before he returned home to Kyadondo where he was unveiled at the beginning of the current 2019/20 season by Heathens.
Kevin Ivan Makmot
If there is a single player who knows all the corners at Legends Rugby Club, it has got to be Kevin Makmot. Makmot is the only individual to have played for all the four Legends Rugby Grounds clubs; Kobs, Pirates – before they shifted to Bweyogerere, Rhinos and Warriors.
Makmot started his tour of Legends Rugby Club at Kobs in 2004 and spent the first three years in the junior side Boks. From 2007, he joined the big boys and played premiership rugby. He was named MVP after the Uganda Cup 2011 final against Black Pirates which marked the start of his rise to becoming arguably the best kicker in Uganda in the past decade.
He then had a short stint with Warriors in 2012 before he joined Black Pirates the following year. At the start of the 2014/15 season, he signed with Rhinos. This is where his rugby career hit its peak as he raked up most of his 21 caps with the Uganda Rugby Cranes. And at the end of the 2017/18 season, he completed the tour of Legends Rugby Club with a move back to Warriors as a coach-player.
If you’ve been in the right place at the right time around the stands at Legends, you most certainly have heard interesting stories of Makmot playing rugby for teams in Rwanda. Some of these stories may, or may not include, allegedly featuring for the small East African nation’s national team at some invitational tournaments.
Even after retiring to focus on his coaching career in 2018, Makmot still enjoys the thrill of active rugby. This season, he has featured for Kyambogo in the Central League championship.
Notable mentions in the tourists of Legends Rugby Grounds include David Otwi who has played for all except Kobs and Michael Amolo who is now with Black Pirates at Bweyogerere.
Jasper ‘Boskut’ Onen
If you asked the East African rugby fraternity – fans, players and administrators alike – what Boskut’s real name is, not many would know. Jasper Onen shone during the early days of his rugby career and was once on the list of “the next Ugandan flyhalf after Tumusiime” but that never came to fruition. What is without a doubt is that he has had a fair share of rugby on the move.
Onen kicked off his nomadic rugby career at Kyadondo in 2009 with Buffaloes having graduated through the junior ranks. He matured quickly in the sport and within a year, he had already stepped up to Heathens with whom he stayed until 2014.
Then the first big move occurred. Onen moved Eastwards across the border to Western Kenya’s Kabras Sugar RFC where he spent about 3 years before being released to the colourful Ngong Road based Harlequins. But first, Rhinos would acquire his services for the high flying 2017/18 season in which they finished in second place.
Certainly, Onen had caught the eye of Kenyan rugby and he would sooner than later go back. And in November 2018, the Quins signed him for another dance in the coming Kenya Cup campaign.
He has also twice, in 2017 and 2018, been a part of a select side from East Africa for the Hong Kong 10s.
Onen is now based in Uganda and is currently part of the Rhinos technical setup as the backs coach.
Having grown up as the last born of seven in Naguru and with an elder brother Byron Atubikire who was an active rugby player, Ivan Kirabo was destined to play rugby from the start.
At just 12 years of age in 2008, Kirabo joined Kyadondo’s junior program with then Tigers U14. But because the two rugby grounds at Lugogo were so close to home, it wasn’t long before he switched to Legends. He started with Bootkamp and then SummerKamp in the now Warriors franchise before joining Kobs’ junior side Boks and ultimately, Kobs.
Kirabo then signed for Kakamega-based Kabras Sugar RFC in 2014 for his first stint that didn’t last long due to personal reasons. The half-back would later join Rhinos to keep the fire burning. It wasn’t long into that season before a phone call from Kabras coach Anthony Ogot had Kirabo on the next bus to Kakamega just in time for the 2016/17 season.
After helping the side finish second in the 2017/18 season alongside fellow Uganda Rugby Cranes star Philip Wokorach, he made a return to Legends Rugby Club. He joined Warriors for whom he played the 2018/19 season under role model coach-player Kevin Makmot.
Kirabo is currently turning out for Kobs in the 2019/20 season. The Blue Army will remember him dearly for that last play conversion attempt that delivered the 2019 Uganda Cup title at Kings Park Stadium against Heathens.
Support our rugby coverage
And finally, saved the best for the last.
Helen Koyokoyo Buteme
Helen Koyokoyo Buteme is among the first women to play rugby in Uganda and has dedicated her life to one purpose: the development of women’s rugby in Uganda.
On the pitch, however, she is the undisputed Ugandan rugby journeyman.
Koyokoyo’s illustrious career began when she walked to Kyadondo Rugby Club in 2003 and asked to join their rugby club. She started out playing non-contact rugby with the men as more ladies joined the sport.
That was the birth of Thunderbirds, the oldest women’s rugby team in the country. She left Thunderbirds and became one of the founding members of Black Panthers in 2006.
Think of any women’s club in Uganda and Koyokoyo has probably played for them at least once. Entebbe Sharks – also known as Entebbe Ladies or Lady Swans, Walukuba Titans – now known as Black Pearls… name them.
Perhaps the most hilarious stories in Koyokoyo’s career are the matches she played for men’s teams. For Sailors – Black Pirates’ second-string side – in the championship between 2009-2010 and for a German university in 2017 at a local 7s tournament in Bremen.
The former Uganda Women’s Sevens captain and head coach has an impressive rugby resume laden with service in Europe. She has played for Thurrock T-birds in the English Premier 15s League and Stockholm Exiles in the Swedish 15s league. In the shorter formats, for the Mamas in the Stockholm 10s and Dubai 7s, Tabusoro Angels, Castricum, Susies and Find Rugby Now in the Amsterdam 7s, and many others in tournaments in Norway, Germany and the Netherlands.
Koyokoyo says that while travelling for any purpose, she carries her boots and mouthguard along just in case a chance to play rugby presents itself. And this is one of the reasons why she was able to feature for so many clubs in her playing days.
The list of Uganda’s great journeymen is endless and there are some names that would make great additions to it. For example, the fire-spitting Zeno Othieno Owora who from 2009 turned out for Black Pirates, SummerKamp, the Kyadondo junior setup of Saracens and Stallions, Mongers, Warriors and is now with Kyambogo in the evening of his playing days.
Who else do you think deserves a mention on this list?