The Cambridge Dictionary of the English Language describes a “derby” as “a sports event between teams in the same area.”

In the Ugandan rugby context, the term “derby” is specifically used to refer to a match between two teams that share a training/home ground. For example, the Makerere Derby between Impis and Rams, the Kyadondo Derby between Heathens and Buffaloes, and the Legends Derby between Kobs and Rhinos.

But the Jinja Derby between Hippos and Walukuba Barbarians in the Nile Special Rugby Premier League fits Cambridge’s description more perfectly. Both Hippos and Walukuba are based across the Nile River in Jinja City and their home grounds are under five kilometres apart.

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It embodies the derby term even more since the two teams share a common history. They were formed in 2014 after Nile Rugby Club folded. Hippos stayed at Damwaters while Walukuba Barbarians found a home at the now-Abel Dhaira Memorial Stadium. Matter of fact, both teams are celebrating their ten-year anniversary this year.

Ugandan rugby has tried to get rid of the “Kampala” label but it has still stuck. Somehow. Mongers in Entebbe are just forty kilometres away but they are neither in nor out of Kampala. Gulu Elephants and Lira Bulls, also from across the Nile but in the Northern region, came to the premiership but unfortunately, they could not sustain their stay in the top flight.

But the two teams from Jinja, Hippos and Walukuba, have shown promise of staying in the top flight for long. Especially Hippos who are now comfortably “best of the rest” and have a national sevens series title to show for it.

The Jinja Derby might be what Uganda needs for rugby outside Kampala. Hippos, in particular, have vibrant fans who have brought a colourful culture to the premiership. Walukuba, still only in their second stint in the top flight, have shown that they have what it takes to bruise the big boys.

It will take a few years before the Jinja Derby becomes anyone’s game. Hippos won the first-round tie at Abel Dhaira Memorial by 43-11 and they are expected to win this weekend’s at Damwaters. But it could be the start of exciting rugby outside Kampala.

Full Matchday 18 Fixtures (all kicking off at 4 p.m.):

  • Kobs vs Pirates at Legends Rugby Grounds.
  • Rams vs Heathens at The Graveyard, Makerere.
  • Mongers vs Rhinos at Busambaga, Entebbe.
  • Buffaloes vs Impis at Kyadondo Rugby Club.
  • Hippos vs Walukuba at Damwaters Rugby Club.

Ernest Akorebirungi joined Kawowo Sports in July 2019 after one year as a student volunteer at the Makerere University Games Union. In his role as rugby correspondent, he offers unique insight and analysis...

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