Sydney Gongodyo and Moses Zziwa | Credit: John Batanudde

Stanbic Black Pirates won their second title on Saturday, May 13, 2023, in the thirty-third edition of Uganda Rugby’s men’s top-flight XVs league.

Back in January, I wrote a piece previewing how the season would progress and where I expected the ten teams to finish.

I am revisiting that story to check how close and/or far I was from the eventual outcome.

Desire Ayeraduring the game against KOBs at King’s Park | Credit: John Batanudde


  • Prediction: Heathens to win the league.
  • Outcome: Pirates won the league.

I hinged my prediction more on luck than on concrete evidence. But hear me out, again.

Heathens’ luck simply ran out during the season. Their captain Charles Uhuru was suspended after the third round and his assistant two matches later. With the departure of Aaron Ofoyrwoth and Michael Wokorach for national sevens duty, Heathens were left with no. inspirational leadership on the pitch. Then they dropped points against Rams, Buffaloes, and Hippos which wouldn’t ordinarily happen.

All these events played into the hands of eventual champions Pirates who did their part to stay close to the top and also had luck on their side. A fresh cohort of young lads combined excellently with the class of 2017-18, coached by then-captain Marvin Odongo, to make a legitimate claim for the title.

Kobs, on the other hand, is yet to get back to its feet since the 2022 election split their camp in half. To post best-in-class performance (on paper) and have their hands on the title up until the last day was done against all odds, owing significantly to coach Makalama’s expertise.

Jinja Hippos Tawfik Bagalana (with ball) during the match against Black Pirates Credit: Yacovos/Jinja Hippos Rugby Club/TW


  • Prediction: Hippos to maintain “best of the rest” status ahead of Buffaloes and Mongers.
  • Outcome: Hippos finished fourth, but Impis slotted between Buffaloes and Mongers.

Jinja Hippos scored fifty points this season. A huge league historical milestone for any team in that position. They seem to be closing the gap from the top three (yet to back this claim with statistical evidence) but it is still too wide.

Hippos and Buffaloes were the only two teams outside the top three to win more than ten matches. The latter played a critical part in determining where the title eventually went. The bonus points Buffaloes denied Heathens and Kobs in the latter stages swung momentum into Pirates’ favour.

Impis, resting heavily on Henry Nsekuye’s boot, won their first five matches. By that point early in the season, they had guaranteed survival for the next year and exceeded everyone’s expectations by far. Their other two wins came in rounds eleven and sixteen against relegation-threatened Rams and Rhinos respectively.


  • Prediction: Rams to fight with Walukuba for survival.
  • Outcome: Walukuba left relegation scrap for Rhinos and eventual victim Rams.

Having lost most of their key players last season, the writing was on the wall for Rams even before the first whistle was blown. They could have had a fighting chance but newly-promoted Walukuba had come with plans to stay in the top flight.

coverage on CONTRASTING fortunes of walukuba and rams

Actually, Walukuba challenged and shocked some of the teams during the season. The team that shocked me most was Rhinos. It seemed like they had made three steps forward from last year and two steps backwards.

In conclusion, I made the wrong prediction at the top and at the bottom. But I will take consolation in being bang on the money in the middle.

So, looking forward to the next season…

At the moment, each of the three men’s titles is held by different teams; Hippos with the national sevens series, Heathens with the Uganda Cup, and Pirates with the XVs league.

Shall we see a different team claim the next available title? I will be there to see with my own eyes.

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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