In 30 days, rugby players will play their first full-contact game. That will be eight days short of a year since the Nile Special Stout Premiership or any other formal rugby was played. Uganda Rugby Union (URU) has set March 6 as the date for the resumption of the league. Throw in the international calendar confirmed last week, it’s a race for fitness against time.
There is a genuine that fear many players will not return to the game as they have since moved on since rugby is primarily amateur in setting.
For those who will return, getting bodies in shape will be as painful as some tackles. “We sat in a meeting with all the clubs chairmen and they agreed we had to start. The issues of fitness and raising numbers is for them to deal with,” URU tournament director Robert Bwali says.
“They knew we had to resume at some stage and had to adopt ways of keeping fit all this time,” he adds. The union has had to extend the registration deadline to 48 hours before the first game kicks off.
URU will work with every club to ensure that the players are facilitated to carry out Covid-19 PCR tests before the start of training for the competitions.
Allure of Africa Cup
URU have had to react quickly as the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) confirmed last the 2021 international calendar after last year’s was wiped out.
CAR have penciled in Rugby Africa Cup, the U20 Barthés Trophy, the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup, Africa Women’s Sevens and Africa Men’s Sevens. Uganda’s participation is hinged on local activity.
“Rugby Africa and World Rugby were going to go on with or without us, we had to take a stand,” explains Bwali.
Consequently, the league will run for nine weeks in round robin format with just a leg per fixture. There will also be no relegation. Players will then rest for a fortnight before national duty calls for their service. What now? “If one has not been working out, 30 days will not help a lot to get them in shape and that comes with injuries and poor performance during games,” Helen Buteme, a strength and conditioning expert, says.
She hopes that some have used the past 11 months productively. “Players that have kept visiting the gym or doing some running can just get better in the next 30 days. It’s about anaerobic and aerobics,” she explains.
Reigning champions Hima Heathens have not trained as a group since last March yet they are a top organistaion in the game, their CV spells that.
Their captain Michael Wokorach foresees a lot of challenges. “Some of our players took different directions and will need a lot of convincing to bring them back,” Wokorach states.
“After getting them back, the next hurdle will be getting them in shape and four weeks cannot be enough,” the centres reveals.
If a club of Heathens calibre is in such a fix, you have to feel for the lesser clubs. Warriors coach Gabriel Aredo thinks there is a natural need to worry for numbers and fitness at every club.
“We have been away for almost a year. You don’t know what everyone has been up to and where they are,” Aredo wonders. Amid the rustiness, expect an avalanche of knock-ons, forward passes, high tackles, bended lineouts, not releasing the ball on the ground, not releasing the tackled player, tackling players in the air and obstructions.
URU’S RETURN PLAN
1. Maximum number of people will be allowed at games with games to be broadcast on URU partner’s online platforms.
2. URU already provided every registered club with face masks for all their players, handwashing facilities and sanitisers.
3. The URU will work with every club to ensure that the players are facilitated to carry out Covid-19 PCR tests before the start of training.
NILE SPECIAL STOUT PREMIERSHIP
Buffaloes vs. Rams, 2pm Kyadondo
Heathens vs. Pirates, 4pm Kyadondo
Warriors vs. Hippos, 2pm Legends
Rhinos vs. Kobs, 4pm Legends
Olympic Games final qualifiers:
June 19-20 in Monaco, France
Elgon Cup: June 12 & July 31
Rugby Africa: July 8-18