Justin Kimono, Phillip Wokorach, Ivan Magomu, Brian Odongo and Michael Wokorach are some of the players that have let their talent do the talking since their school days. The list could go on.
Betway Kobs, Buzz Pirates and Hima Cement Heathens have over the last 20 years or so been the top three sides and they can’t deny how beneficial they have found schools rugby, it has been their hunting ground, before they turned away a few years back. As Namilyango College alumni easily found their way to Kobs, those from King’s College Budo and St Mary’s College Kisubi ended up at Pirates while Heathens have had fed from the stable Kyadondo structure and the likes of Hana Mixed and Kyambogo College.
A few years back as the top three sides grew stronger by the day, it became harder for players fresh from school to break in. Playing time hardly came by as you had to be a special talent to break in. The period also coincided with the endless Schools League struggles and just like that, clubs settled for a comfort zone.
With talent from school finding it hard to be accepted as clubs opted for finished products at the expense of grooming, plenty of gifted players that only needed fine tuning looked away.
“I have advocated that coaches attend the school league games and some have responded positively because the future stars are there,” said Uganda Schools Rugby Association (USRA) chairman Valence Bizimana.
About four years ago as Kobs and Heathens exchanged all available silverware, Pirates was on the verge of sinking. Someone had to act wisely in time. Pirates matched Kobs and Heathens in the market, more so they had tried buying players from Kenya, but the imports never yielded results and the practice was not sustainable.
“We went back to schools and handpicked talent which we groomed. It has been a project that we sat down and built,” Pirates official Sam Ahamya told this paper last season.
The movers and shakers at Pirates went back to schools rugby. Pirates, under the tutelage of Anthony Kinene, gave hope to schools rugby by opening doors to its products. As time went on, Kenyan money invaded Uganda rugby with Wokorach the first notable name to be snapped before many more followed.
Pirates are now enjoying the harvest of seeds sown years back. They just won the Uganda Cup - their first title in 10 years and are leading the race to the league title.