The sight of Brian Tabaruka in a Hima Cement Heathens’ jersey for their Nile Special Rugby Premier League defeat at the hands of Toyota Buffaloes was humbling.
It came almost eight years after Tabaruka first retired from the game and two years since he ‘left’ coaching. Anyway, Tabaruka, an architect, never leaves.
His old magic or jaded frame was hardly a factor in the ensuing 17-10 loss for the champions.
Heathens’ second successive defeat in the eight-team division could have as well meant they could kiss the title goodbye way before the real race starts.
A third in a row, today against Shell Rimula Rhinos at Kyadondo will almost confirm their place as bridesmaids.
“There is still a lot of rugby to be played,” coach Mohammed Athiyo said. Like many sportsmen, Athiyo is firm believer in the old adage of a league a marathon and not a sprint. But, by picking Tabaruka, Heathens laid bare their inadequacies in terms of depth, a worry that old rivals Betway Kobs also face. The kick must start quickly.
Losing backs Philip Wokorach and Aaron Ofoywroth plus prop Asuman Mugerwa depleted their squad of quality. There is so much patching up going on. Their replacements are yet to sparkle.
For a team that has had three season clean sweeps before – 2002, 2004 and 2009 – the fear of not being in the running at all is becoming all too familiar.Beating a rather ‘stagnant’ Rhino side, yet to make strides towards breaking into the top three, will help Heathens regain faith. It’s something coach Brian Makalama has so far failed to do even as the revolving door of transfers never rests. Meanwhile, the early game as Kyadondo has Toyota Buffaloes hosting Kobs with the former hoping for another big scalp.
Early season pacesetters Buzz Pirates will want a quick knockout of Plascon Mongers at Makerere to stay ahead of the pack.
NILE SPECIAL RUGBY PREMIERSHIP
Heathens vs Rhinos, 4.30pm
Kobs vs Buffaloes, 2.20pm
Pirates vs Mongers, 2.30pm
Impis vs Rams, 4.30pm
AT DAM WATERS, JINJA
Jinja Hippos vs Warriors, 4.30pm