Pius Ogena Credit: John Batanudde

The 2022 Nile Special Rugby Premier League has played in extreme ends of weather conditions in the Central Region. Matchday One was under the scorching sun while Matchday Two experienced extended showers. The weather forecast says Matchday Three will be mostly cloudy with a 4% chance of rain.

In this preview, I give you, not the weather forecast, but that of the rugby coming up this weekend.

Mongers vs Warriors (1pm) at Busambaga, Entebbe

Warriors are the only team yet to earn their first point this season while Mongers have won two games on the trot, but given their opponents the losing point.

  • Team News: Coach-player Gabriel Aredo said to Kawowo Sports that he is down with an illness – and so is his elder brother Erasmus Aredo. That said, Warriors will navigate the mucky Entebbe waters without a captain onboard.
  • Previous Meetings: While the start of this season indicates that it will be a close game, recent meetings show that Mongers have a stronger upper hand. The hosts have won the last 3 meetings but the visitors have not gone down without a fight.
  • Match Official Allocation: Gonzaga Mayanja is center referee with Emmanuel Olupot and Tonny Torach as his assistants. Dorothy Nekesa is the Match Commissar.

Jinja Hippos vs Heathens (1pm) at Damwaters Rugby Club

While Heathens struggled to overcome Kobs during the Lions Cup on Saturday, Jinja Hippos rode a high wave against Warriors at home. But this weekend, the latter are faced with a much stiffer challenge than any they have seen this season yet. The former will know not to rest on their laurels against an outfit that has earned their label as ‘best of the rest’.

  • Team News: Ronald Kanyanya starts ahead of Cyrus Wathum and Victor Wangobo ahead of Joshua Oketcho as coach Mohammed Athio opts for a 4-4 split on the Heathens bench.
  • Previous Meetings: In the last two seasons, this has been a one-sided encounter. Heathens have won the last three matches comfortably, averaging 131-15 points, since 2019.
  • Match Official Allocation: Ronald Wutimber is center referee with Bashir Bakel and Edward Emienu as his assistants. Uganda Lady Rugby Cranes head coach Leonard Lubambula is the Match Commissar.

Rhinos vs Impis (1pm) at Legends Rugby Club

Had it not been for poor kicking accuracy – and low overall efficiency – last Saturday, both Impis and Rhinos would have collected maximum points. But Impis got two for a draw against Buffaloes and Rhinos one in the loss against Mongers.

  • Team News: A wide range of changes for the visitors this weekend. In the pack, Godfrey Ayebale replaces Amos Asiimire at hooker while Blaise Ochieng breaks the Ssedyabane-Mpoza-Muhumuza looseforwards triple threat at the blindside. In the backline, Henry Nsekuye shifts to the unfamiliar fullback position and Edmond Waya returns to the starting XV at flyhalf.
    Rhinos have made six changes in the pack – reserved youngster Francis Mukundane starts at the frontrow in captain Arembe’s place – and four in the backline – Davis Shimwa combines with Billy Ocen in the midfield.
  • Previous Meeting: By a slim one-point margin in a 20-19 tie, Impis beat Rhinos last season.
  • Match Official Allocation: Umar Balikanda returns to Legends to manage an Impis match. He will be assisted by James Byaruhanda and Edward Kabagambe with Julius Nkuraija as the Match Commissar.

Rams vs Buffaloes (3pm) at The Graveyard, Makerere

Buffaloes have been on an upward trajectory from the start of the season – a heavy defeat in the Kyadondo Derby followed by a draw against Impis – while Rams are rolling backwards having got a losing bonus point in the opener and conceded 60 points on the second day.

  • Team News: Liam Walker returns to steer the Buffaloes, and most importantly, solve their kicking woes.
  • Previous Meeting: Buffaloes kept Rams without a try last season in a 15-03 match played at Kyadondo.
  • Match Official Allocation: Rosenburg Kanyunyuzi is center referee with Elijah Massa and Ivan Arinaitwe. Match Commissar is Aziz Mpora.

Kobs vs Black Pirates (3pm) at Legends Rugby Club

Kobs and Stanbic Black Pirates have unfinished business from the just-closed transfer window. This early encounter on the pitch, not the boardrooms, is an opportunity for both teams to settle their salty scores.

  • Team News: Starting openside flanker Kelvin Balagadde has moved on from the messy transfer business between the two teams that he was at the center of. Rising sensation Josiah Ssempeke will maintain the number 10 jersey for Kobs he assumed from Joseph Aredo who suffered an ankle injury last weekend.
    The more forwards-leaning Kobs have gone for a 5-3 split on the bench while the backs-dependent Black Pirates have opted for a 6-2 split which means both teams are looking to combat their opponent’s threats late on in the game.
  • Previous Meeting: Kobs won their first league title in four years after beating Black Pirates 15-05 in the title decider last season. It may not be the ultimate decider this year, but this encounter will be one of those that determines who the eventual champion will be.
  • Match Official Allocation: Sauda Adiru, who was center referee last season, will manage this crucial tie for the second consecutive time. Rachel Kakaire and Emmanuel Sama are her assistants with Gary Mabonga as the Match Commissar.

Kawowo Sports will broadcast the double-header at Legends Rugby Club beginning with Rhinos vs Impis at 1pm followed by Kobs vs Black Pirates at 3pm.

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

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