A highly anticipated Lions Cup tie between Heathens and Kobs will headline matchday two of the Nile Special Rugby Premier League this weekend, as we get our first piece of rugby outside Kampala this year.
Here’s a brief preview of the matches, with thoughts on expected proceedings across the field.
Buffaloes vs Impis (1pm) at Kyadondo Rugby Club
The Buffaloes-Impis encounter is steadily marking its territory as one of the lowest scoring matches in the Ugandan top flight. Both teams employ a “play what you see” strategy with very few training ground moves on show by both forwards and backs.
- Team News: The visitors have made six changes from the squad that played on the opening weekend. In the midfield, Stallone Arinaitwe shifts to inside center as Roy Kizito starts ahead of Edmond Waya who had a tough game, especially defensively.
On the other hand, the hosts have made ten changes, most importantly their entire front row by opting for Arthur Akampa, Abdul Kiyimba and Farouk Watmon.
- Previous Meeting: Last season, Buffaloes put some space between themselves and Impis with a 18-06 win, after scrapping a similarly low-scoring season double the year before that.
- Match Official Allocation: Gonzaga Mayanja will be center referee while Rachel Kakaire and Emmanuel Olupot will run along the touchlines. Aziz Mpora is the Match Commissar.
Mongers vs Rhinos (1pm) at Busambaga, Entebbe
- Team News: While Mongers and Rhinos fielded rather young and inexperienced sides for their first matches, the lads grit their teeth to beat their hosts to the win. Round two pits the two against each other for yet another test at a narrow and short lakeside Busambaga pitch.
- Previous Meeting: Last season’s solitary meeting was a thriller at Legends where both Rhinos and Mongers got the scoreboard ticking, but it is the former who won 30-25.
- Match Official Allocation: Center referee David Kirabira will be assisted by Tonny Torach and Uganda Lady Rugby Cranes star Juliet Nandawula with Julius Nkuraija as Match Commissar.
Jinja Hippos vs Warriors (2pm) at Dam Waters Rugby Club
With just one match played, Jinja Hippos have earned the label of the team to avoid this season. Warriors, on the other hand, appear to still be digging the trenches in preparation for battles that have already started. But, realistically, it is too early to make conclusions into this season.
- Team News: The tense opening match against Black Pirates seems to have bruised Jinja Hippos who have brought nine new players into their starting XV. Meddy Mapeesa and Yasin Wasswa will herd the Hippos in the half-back combination.
Both teams have consented to play the match at 2pm due to the lifting of curfew and for a much gentler experience under the scorching sun.
- Previous Meeting: Jinja Hippos won 20-10 last season in the rescheduled matchday one fixture between the two teams was played at a neutral venue.
- Match Official Allocation: Rosenberg Kanyunyuzi will officiate Warriors for the second time this season. She will be assisted by Charlie Mungoma and Eastern region’s Bashir Bakel. URU Secretary Robert Bwali is the Match Commissar.
Black Pirates vs Rams (3pm) at King’s Park Stadium
If you asked any Ugandan rugby fan about this fixture, the quickest memory will be the 15-13 upset Rams executed in the first round of the 2019-20 season – the first and only win Rams have registered against the Black Pirates. The Sea Robbers welcome the Mulago side back to their turf this weekend.
- Team News: Conrad Wanyama is expected to be out for a few weeks with a shoulder injury which has given fan favourite and long time Sailors player Moses Olupot an opportunity to make his senior debut. Rams too have prominent youngsters in their lineup. Brian Batakwire, who was an assistant referee on the opening matchday, will start at flyhalf for Rams and new signing Michael Kalyango is the full-back.
- Previous Meeting: Normality has since 2020 returned in the tie with Black Pirates winning 29-03 in the second round and 54-00 last season. Once bitten, twice shy, the Englishmen say.
- Match Official Allocation: Center referee will be Denis Anguyo, assisted by Edward Emienu and Emmanuel Sama who stays at King’s Park for the second round. Dorothy Nekesa will be Match Commissar.
Heathens vs Kobs (3pm) at Kyadondo Rugby Club
While observers expect this Lions Cup tie to be won by the team whose forward pack will dominate through the entire match, I strongly believe the kickers will yet again be the difference between Heathens and Kobs. This belief is based on the outcome of the two most recent meetings between the two biggest rugby clubs in the country.
The twist in this season’s encounter, however, is that Heathens have the upper hand while Kobs are not yet fully cohesive after some pre-season turbulence in the elections and transfers.
- Team News: Kobs’ Pius Ogena has been moved from blindside flanker to inside center, pushing club captain Justin Kimono to the reserves as a utility back. Pending medical clearance, Heathens’ lineout maestro Simon “Diego” Olet awaits his return which brings Aziz Khan into the starting XV. Both teams’ benches are an interesting 5-3 split that will make for an exciting closing moments of the match.
- Previous Meeting: Kobs outsmarted Heathens, 19-11, at Legends last season while Heathens got the upper hand in 2019/20, clinching a 06-00 win under the floodlights at Kyadondo.
- Match Official Allocation: Ronald Wutimber has been handed center referee duties for this encounter. He will be assisted by Saudah Adiru and Gonzaga Mayanja with Gary Mabonga as Match Commissar.
The double-header at Kyadondo Rugby Club will be broadcast live on Kawowo Sports YouTube channel.