It had been well over six months since the 2019-20 Nile Stout Rugby Premier League season was halted due to Coronavirus.
The Uganda Rugby Union may have taken far too long to make a decision on the fate of the season but its cancellation was inevitable.
Rugby being among the high-risk sports as listed by the National Council of Sports, the completion of the season was a mirage given the procedure for return to play.
And on Wednesday, October 7, the Union finally decided to call an end to the season with 13 of 18 matches in the top-flight division played and awarded Heathens the title.
With 13 of the 18 rounds played, we saw enough to make up our minds about excelling players across the board – precisely, a team of the season.
In this article, I present to you fifteen players who I believe consistently performed and made a difference for their respective clubs during the course of the season.
1. Edgar Pajob (Black Pirates)
When a number of exciting backs opted out of Pirates team for this season, the Sea Robbers had to change strategy. The national sevens engagements for Isaac Massa, William Nkore, and Desire Ayera, as well as injury to Muhammad Haruna, meant Pirates would have to rely on their forwards a little more than usual. Without a doubt, the Pirates scrum won some big victories during the season and it is in no small part attributable to Edgar Pajob’s grit and strength as well as his command.
Pajob personally prefers playing tighthead but I will have him at loosehead on my team.
2. Alex Mubiru (Heathens)
Understudy Ronald Kanyanya and rest may have restricted Alex Mubiru’s full impact for the Heathens this season but we still saw enough from the vet, who now runs at a glacial pace, to show why he’s still the best hooker in the country through his throws that keep Heathens lineout humming as well as his significant work rate. It’s no surprise he is the top scoring hooker this season.
3. Emmanuel Byamugisha (Heathens)
Heathens set the standard in Uganda this season, and much of their prowess can be attributed to the dominant forward pack that Emmanuel Byamugisha shone in. Playing for the first time with the champions, the former Warriors’ prop fit right into Heathens philosophy of strong forward play.
4. Charles Uhuru (Heathens)
Heathens’ dominance throughout the season was down to their forwards. Their pack is probably the heaviest in the league and it showed by how they dominated scrums and mauls, and the lineouts were nearly a no contest thanks to star lock Charles Uhuru who hardly let his standards dip. Always carried well and disrupted opposition breakdowns.
5. Humphrey Tashobya (Black Pirates)
Having Tashobya in my starting team was quite a hard choice to make given how impressive Emmanuel Echodu was for Kobs as well as Joaquim Chisano for Mongers. Chisano was strong and dominated as always before he got injured, Echodu could probably pass for Kobs’ best player this season but Tashobya is a silent killer who impressed at lineout time (with probably one of highest average line out steals per game). He is the unsung hero for Pirates and he’s becoming one of the first names on Bobby Musinguzi’s squad list. With Charles Uhuru as my top lock pick, Tashobya would be the perfect complement for the Heathens skipper.
6. Alhaji Manano (Kobs)
Consistently played out of his skin for Kobs during the season, no surprise he was never out of Davis Kyewalabye’s team. Manano was one of the standout performers in the league who did his bit with tireless work at breakdowns.
7. Scott Oluoch (Heathens)
Oluoch is a dominant presence at the breakdown, but his strength and pace with the ball in hand is what sets him apart despite his age. He played a number of games as the eighth man, but I will have him on the open side.
8. Alex Aturinda (Black Pirates)
If you asked me who the league MVP is, I would, without hesitation, say Alex Aturinda. 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 ability to burst through opposition defenses while holding them back in defense is a prerequisite for a number eight and Aturinda did that throughout the thirteen league games he played. He carried and tackled well.
9. Ivan Kirabo (Kobs)
Slow but sure is what defines Kirabo. The slow tempo and recycles come with high efficiency in making the right play, and that is what Kirabo is all about.
Kirabo was always trusted with kicking duties at Kobs and more often than not delivered.
10. Donald Oketayot (Buffaloes)
In rugby, the most ingenious player is usually the flyhalf as he directs the flow of the game. He’s tasked with managing and reading the game. In every game Oketayot stepped on the turf, Buffaloes attack got a spark. His work rate in terms of supporting runs and chasing kicks for territory set him apart during the season.
11. Lawrence Sebuliba (Heathens)
If you were told Lawrence Sebuliba broke his arm during the 2018 Dubai Sevens, you probably wouldn’t believe. The winger found some vintage form since his return this season. With nine tries to his name, Sebuliba is the top-scoring back at Heathens in the thirteen rounds played.
12. Twafik Bagalana (Jinja Hippos)
Jinja Hippos play some expansive rugby and Twafik Bagalana is one of the causal agents of how the side plays. Bagalana is a powerful ball-runner who creates gaps for fellow backliners as Maxwell Ebonga and Denis Etwau to flourish. He played most of his rugby season at 13, but in a season where the consistently used insider centres were makeshifts – Justin Kimono (Kobs) and Isaac Rujumba (Pirates), Bagalana can easily play with Innocent Gwoktho to his right.
13. Innocent Gwoktho (Heathens)
Innocent Gwoktho is expected to walk right into Michael Wokorach’s shoes. In the absence of the big brother with National Sevens Team commitment, Gwoktho put his hand up. Although Gwoktho is still learning his trade in the midfield, he was one of the sharpest attacking weapons in the league and was always a threat with the ball in hand.
14. Daudi Semwami (Kobs)
Muscle, as he is popularly known in rugby circles, was probably the most explosive winger in the league this season. A strong and dangerous ball-runner with an ability to attack from deep, Semwami was in devastating form at the time of suspending the league. With nine tries to his name, nobody is more deserving of the right-wing spot on my team.
15. Joseph Oyet (Heathens)
Last season, Joseph Oyet learnt just enough at Warriors to claim his place in Heathens backline at the expense of Trevor Ochan and his performance this term proved just that.
As one of the most electric and productive players in the Nile Special Stout Rugby Premier League this season, Oyet deserves the fullback spot in this side.
Oyet provided the safe hands when opponents kicked for territory, gained meters with his mazy runs, scored in open play, and off the tee.