With Mathias Ochwo the only survivor in the Rugby Cranes team that won the 2007 Africa Cup, today surely marks the start of a new era. Having been relegated from tier 1A to 1B last year, Uganda start their journey back to the upper echelon with a game against the bulky Ivory Coast.
It marks the start of what coach Peter Magona calls a four-year cycle. Add five debutants and you know Magona has some tough decision to find the right balance. Being captain and arguably the best prop, Brian Odongo will start as loosehead.
Being more experienced at club level, hooker Paul Sserunjogi will make his debut ahead of youngster Syrus Wathm.
Cameroonian-born Martial Tchumkam should join them with Asuman Mugerwa settling for a place on the bench to counter the height advantage of the Ivorians.
On the second row, Romano Ogwal is a certainty with Timothy Kabonero, who has played at prop for DMark Kobs, joining him.
Without Scot Oluoch and Robert Seguya retiring, the back row choices might cause a minor headache besides Ochwo getting the nod at open side flanker.
Marvin Odongo is highly rated at eighth man and his mobility and ability to break the line gives him the edge at No. 8 ahead of Andrew Olweny.
Olweny has never exploded for Uganda like he has at club level but another shot to complete the back row wouldn’t be the biggest gamble. Further back, the slippery Davis Kiwalabye is certain to start at scrumhalf ahead of Kevin Markmot with Jospeh Aredo, the other halfback.
Aredo is a gamble but Jasper Ochen’s brilliance is yet to earn trust. Oscar Kalyango and Michael Wokorach will take the two centre positions even though both are 13s. Justin Kimono will take up one of the wings with Jonathan Onen’s defence guaranteeing him a place in the back three.
Choosing Lawrence Wakabi from the onset would be a masterstroke though Magona will debate that decision so many times before finalising his team.