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Uganda: Rugby Returns

Rugby lovers will no longer have to look for various ways of spending their weekends; the game returns this evening with 10-time defending champions MTN Heathens taking on new entrants Summerkamp in the season opener.The league was supposed to kick off a fortnight ago but the Rugby Union had to postpone it as they made arrangements with the new management at Legends bar and grounds (Formerly Kampala Rugby grounds).

The grounds were home to Dmark Kobs, Pirates and Rhinos but the new owners weren’t okay with those clubs using the venue as a practice ground. But now the union has agreed with the owners.

“We have been able to sort that out and clubs will be able to use the grounds without any difficulties”, Yayiro Kasasa, the Rugby Union manager, told The Observer.

As Kobs and Rhinos welcomed the news, Pirates, on the hand, found themselves a new home and will now be based at the Coffee Marketing Board grounds in Bugolobi. Pirates also start the new season in high gear after welcoming back veterans Moses Soita and Phillip Karumuna.

Mongers have also been busy in the pre-season setup and have been joined by former player Robbin Nyombi who has been in Germany studying at Bremen University.

Nyombi joins new entrants Benjamin Kinobe (from MUBS), Brian Kalule (St Lawrence University), as the club beefs up its challenge for its first league title. In the past seasons, the club has been a hard nut to crack but they always lack the cutting edge when it matters most. And considering that four of their first round fixtures will be in Entebbe, probably they can do more than swim with the big boys.

The new league format is also eye-catching. Previously, the games would be played on a home and away basis. But now, the teams will only play each other in the first round, then the top four will play on a knock-out basis to determine the winner. The bottom four play a knock-out to determine who gets relegated.

“The clubs are okay with the new format and it will help ease on the busy rugby calendar that we have ahead of us,” Yayiro Kasasa, the Union manager, said.

Kenya Rugby Union also employs the same format which enables them to finish the fixtures early and concentrate on International fixtures.

The title sponsors have also doubled their effort and have renewed their support with a Shs 1.8bn package for the next three years. This package means the prize money will be doubled to Shs 8m and the union’s activities will be facilitated better.

“Rugby is a transparent sport and has a committed union,” Isaac Sekasi, Nile Special sponsorship manager, said.

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