A combined 20 points over two Game Weeks in the Rugby Premiership, including a minuscule three in the loss to Heathens, has prompted uncomfortable questions over Black Pirates’ title credentials.
After sweeping all domestic trophies that were on offer last season, Bobby Musinguzi’s charges have found themselves in a defensive crouch one too many times this side of the year.
A 50-point annihilation of newly promoted Walukuba Barbarians on the opening game week helped peel away the layers of sorrow following the Sea Robbers’ surrender of the Uganda Cup to Kobs.
But that’s as far as the joy has gone. Pirates’ success of kicking on has been vastly limited. This notwithstanding the fact that Musinguzi still has at his disposal the weapons he put to devastating effect last season.
The pace, strength and eye for the line from Raymond Emanzi at wing remains. Timothy Kisiga has been plagued by injury, but the fullback still has the speed and acceleration to take advantage of broken fields and disconnected defensive lines.
Elsewhere, the halfback combo of Ivan Magomu and Conrad Wanyama as well as midfield pairing of Haruna Muhammad and Isaac Massa have a broad latitude to enthral.
Magomu (grappling with an elbow injury) and Wanyama (work commitments) were unavailable for the match against Heathens as was Musa Muwonge whose tough, unyielding, passionate and relentless displays in the back row were sorely missed.
While those absences along with that of the imposing Isaac Rujumba meant that the Sea Robbers faced strong headwinds against Heathens, the general consensus is that Kobs’ second half fight back in the Uganda Cup final provided a blueprint on how to outfox Pirates.
Many clubs now go into encounters against Pirates looking to starve them of fast ball situations. The aforesaid clubs know that they stand a chance against the Sea Robbers if their forwards slow down the game, and, crucially, step up in terms of physicality. The task of course appears particularly formidable, but, if executed well enough, it always sweeps aside Pirates’ rugby ethos.
How Musinguzi responds to this vulnerability will pretty much make or break the Sea Robbers’ title defence.