Former Rimula Rhinos and Rugby Cranes prop Martial Tchumkam is determined to restore pride in the team that has fallen from grace.
Tchumkam’s colossal figure has now become a mainstay on the touchline yelling instructions as coach.
He fondly talks about Rhinos, it is understandable after all this is where he came across rugby two years after arriving in Uganda from his motherland Cameroon.
“I came to Uganda in 2006 as a footballer but ended up playing rugby,” he says.
Back then, Tchumkam was going about his business at an internet café in Entebbe when the Musoke brothers Henry and John (former players at Rhinos) stumbled upon the then French translator and convinced him of a future in rugby.
After months of learning the game, Tchumkam made his debut in 2009 as the eighthman before moving to the front row.
“It took me some time to grasp the game. That’s why I first played as a number eight. When I was ready, I moved to prop,” he says.
His exploits at Rhino caught the eye of national team selectors, thus earning his Cranes badges after he agreed to represent Uganda in the sport.
It is now 11 years at Rhinos and he has seen a lot, from credible title contenders to relegation candidates last term.
“Things have to change next season. I have an exciting group coming through and we are building a good team,” he said last season after surviving the drop.
Rhinos’ 2021 Nile Special Stout Premiership campaign started with a 51-0 loss to Betway Kobs.
“The team is young and was against a more experienced group with a lot of options,” he told SCORE after the loss, promising a better show in the next outing.
Indeed, Rhinos pipped 13-4 last week in a nail-biting affair. The result left Tchumkam hopeful, especially with his forwards at the scrum, a trade he ranks as one of the best the country, has seen.
“We pushed all the scrums,” he said, grinning. “I see improvement every week and we are definitely a better side than a year back. We need to get a solid bench to help us grind out games because my players get really exhausted.”
And exhaustion is what Tchumkam will be wary of as his side faces a new-make Hippos in Jinja today. Unfortunately, he will have to follow the proceedings from Lira where work has placed him.
But he is aware of the Hippos’ threat.
“It is another tough game we have to play, they are a good side with a good backline and we’ll have to work hard,” he says.
Timothy Buloti, a senior player at Rhinos, is expected to take charge of the team that sits seventh in the table with four points.
Elsewhere, Stanbic Pirates host Impis hoping to make it two wins on the bounce after putting away Plascon Mongers last Saturday. Warriors take the fight to Mongers in Entebbe looking for their first win of the campaign. Rams entertain champions Heathens, who chase a third successive league title, while log leaders Betway Kobs welcome Toyota Buffaloes at Legends.