SCORE’s Deus Bugembe explores why there has been a shift in the balance of power from the traditional rugby renowned schools to a new breed of secondary school teams
For years, schools rugby has been dominated by the missionary founded schools like Namilyango College, Kings College Buddo and St. Mary’s College Kisubi. Whenever any of the mentioned came up against other schools, it was always bound to be a complete mismatch.
However, those times seem to have elapsed since schools like Hana got into the fray around five years ago and lately Kololo S.S that just popped from the blue this season to put up a series of catchy performances.
Hana have bagged the coveted schools accolade twice during their young stint in the league while Kololo have strode against all odds to make the final in their maiden appearance. It’s by no coincidence that the schools final will not have a traditional giant in it for the first time since its inauguration in 1996.
Of the three giants, Kings College Buddo has been affected more than the other two. The latter has failed to progress from the group stages for two years running.
Hana’s rise can be credited to its affiliation with Kyadondo Rugby Club. The marriage has enabled boys from Kyadondo sides like KK Stallions, Engesol Tigers and Toyota Buffaloes get scholarships in Hana thus playing rugby for them.
Players who have trod that path include Ronnie Musoke, Phillip Wokkorach, Pius Ogena, Alfred Bijik (current buffaloes and sevens national team captain), Kevin Keremundu,
Perhaps the biggest reason to why Hana have scaled these heights in a very short time is the x-factor of veteran Robert Sseguya who has coached them since they joined Schools rugby since 2010.
Kololo S.S has a strong side with a crop of club players like James Ijyongati (D Mark Kobs), Joseph Oyet (Heathens), and Michael Amollo (Mutoni Warriors). The school has been hosting their opponents at Kyadondo Rugby Club where they won all their games. They also have a young coach in Kevin Markmot who has steered them effectively since taking over the ruins.
Most of their current players have been offered scholarships instead of spending loads of time loitering in Naguru.
A small section of the rugby fraternity has come out to accuse Kololo of using over age players in the league but there is no clear evidence to support the claims.
The senior category clearly permits only those U-19 years to participate yet some names have been singled out to be above the age limit.
Ultimately, Hana and Kololo are doing what the three giants have ignored. The rugby scholarships are paying dividends as tables continue to turn in the league. Administrations in the new schools are supporting rugby in various ways more than the big three of recent.
There is also laxity of students from traditional schools to play in the Nile Special Super 8 league while the likes of Hana and Kololo have a good number of students playing there.
It’s high time the traditional schools loosened their admission policies by offering more sports preferably rugby scholarships. It looks like sport is dying in traditional schools in favor of academics yet the two are supposed complement one another.
If things stay the way they are, the big three are likely to live in the shadow of the new schools for quite a while.
NUMBER OF TITLES
Namilyango College: 9 titles
Kings College Budo: 5
Hana Mixed School: 2
Kyambogo College: 1
Saint Mary’s College Kisubi: 1