Karim Arinaitwe and Kelvin Balagadde

Youngster Karim Arinaitwe’s rugby career has been meteoric in the past two years. From a superb rookie season as substitute utility back to a permanent fixture on the country’s strongest team both in sevens and fifteens, Arinaitwe hit the ground running and is yet to lift his foot off the gas pedal.

It is this brilliant run of form and steady rise to maturity that has earned him a call-up to the Uganda Men’s Sevens national team for the upcoming Safari Sevens this weekend in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the ongoing 2021 Guinness Sevens Series, the Kobs Rugby Club winger has scored eleven tries. This is only bettered by Adrian Kasito and Pius Ogena for his club, and Timothy Kisiga, Nobert Okeny and Dennis Etwau among the rest. All the above-mentioned, minus Ogena, have made it to the new-look squad.

However, it is not just scoring tries that Arinaitwe brings to the 12-man team assembled by head coach Tolbert Onyango.

Arinaitwe is well-equipped with the soft skills required of a back at the top level. Most importantly, he is not at all shy to express himself on the pitch. At the end of the 2019-20 premier league season, I wrote that Arinaitwe was among the top contenders for the Rookie of the Season Award, if one was to be awarded.

And he has improved even further since then. Providing stability for Kobs at full-back last season in the absence of senior players, Joseph Aredo and Adrian Kasito, who were on national duty with the Sevens squad, and whom he is now part of.

However, as those who have been there will say, international rugby is a whole different level and experience. It takes a great deal – physically, mentally and “rugbyly” – for one to get a strong footing at that stage.

But Arinaitwe has earned his place there. It is now his time to show the rest of the world what he has got.

Ernest Akorebirungi is an amateur rugby player and a keen follower of local Ugandan rugby.

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