Rwanda Rugby in 2011

When one talks sports in Rwanda, many think soccer, basketball, volleyball, occasionally athletics but slowly by slowly a game called rugby is starting to creep on Rwandans.
Rwanda’s youngster Moise Habumugisha (L) makes a run for it during the Hong Kong 10s
Rwanda’s youngster Moise Habumugisha (L) makes a run for it during the Hong Kong 10s

When one talks sports in Rwanda, many think soccer, basketball, volleyball, occasionally athletics but
slowly by slowly a game called rugby is starting to creep on Rwandans.

When Frenchman Pierre Hoffer introduced the game of Rugby in 2002, he probably just wanted to have fun. He
started with a few expatriates who had a notion of the game and later recruited a few curious local faces,
mainly kids from Gikondo.

Now the game boasts of over 8 men’s clubs, two girls’ clubs, many primary schools enjoying tag rugby, a
national rugby team that is now taking part in and even hosting international matches and a steadily
growing fan base.

Below, are some of the rugby events that graced 2011.

Hong Kong 10s

Rwanda was introduced to the Hong Kong 10s that precede the famous Hong Kong 7s in 2010 by Hong Kong based
Englishman Hughes Dave.

Rwanda is now part of the annual rugby 10s courtesy of Dave, his parents and the many friends the Rwandan
team’s skills and talent attracted in the 2010 tournament.

This year, the Rwandan team moved three places up to 3rd. A sign that 2012 might bring even better results
with better preparation and the growth in confidence of the players.

Jinja Nile 7s

This year, Rwanda also featured in the fast growing in stature Jinja Nile Water Dam 7s. The team, full of
debutants to the big stage, won all but two games to take third place.

Overall, the team played exceptionally well as a team. No wonder Vincent Kamali emerged top scorer in the
tournament with 10 tries.

Safaricom 7s

Again, in 2011, Rwanda took part in the prestigious Safaricom 7s. This was the third time the country was
taking part, the first time being in 2006 when it was still the Tusker Safari 7s.

This year, Rwanda beat Tanzania in the Shield semi-finals to reach the Shield finals and earning the 1st
runners up trophy after losing to Uganda.

CAR 15s

Rwanda lifted the Confederation of Africa, South Division, rugby trophy a fourth time in a row. This
however dimmed by the fact that for the second year running, only Burundi showed up and there was no
visible trophy to lift.

However, the way the game was won was a plus in evidencing the growth of Rwanda’s national 15s team.

National men’s 15s league

Remera Buffaloes Rugby Club won the league for the 5th year in a row. The club is yet to receive its
trophy. Gikondo based Sharks RFC put up a spirited fight while former three-time champs Lions de fer also
seemed to use the league as a stepping stone for a rebirth.

National University of Rwanda’s Grizzlies occasionally showed glimpses of what they could be but somehow
always fell short.

The league also gave a baptism of fire welcome to Muhanga RFC and Rulindo’s Tumba College Jaguars. They
however, stood their ground and played all their games. 2012 should give them more experience.

The league was sponsored by Inyange industries. There seemed a glitch towards the end as there was a change
in management. Hopefully, they will continue to support rugby in 2012 and beyond.

Local 7s tournaments

 As the game of rugby grows, so have teams gained confidence in hosting the shorter but faster and more
entertaining 7s tournaments.

The 7s were kicked off by the now annual Remera Buffalo rugby 7s. This is their fourth year running.
Buffalo added this year’s trophy to its trophy cabinet; it’s third after losing its inaugural tourney to
Lions de fer in 2007.

Buffalo went on to make a clean sweep of the other 7s that included the Sharks, Lions de fer, Dave and the
first ever UNR Grizzlies 7s.

Women’s rugby

Women’s rugby has since become a shadow of what it was between 2005 and 2007. This is probably due to
neglect by the federation or a lack of resources.

Rwanda last enjoyed success in 2006 when sensational Angelique Nzabanita took the MVP and Top Scorer’s
awards in the CAR Women’s tournament held in Uganda. Nzabanita had earlier, in 2005, also won the MVP
trophy.

The future looked bright for the Rwandan girls when in 2008, the Rwandan team was invited to the elite 7s
tournament in South Africa. It was ranked among the top 9 in the continent.

However, the tournament didn’t take place due to what the organizers said were financial constraints.


However, this year, Lions de fer organized a Women’s Day 7s tournament which attracted eight teams, many
from the Southern Province. The teams are worth mentioning here.

Groupe Scolaire Notre Dame from Nyamagabe beat perennial winners Groupe Scolaire Remera-Rukoma.

The tournament attracted many fans, a sign that if women’s rugby is given due attention, Rwanda will attain
greater heights.

CAR Women’s 7s, South Division

On October 29 and 30, 2011 Gaborone, Botswana, the Rwandan women’s rugby team finally, after four years,
took part in an international tournament, the CAR Women’s 7s, South.

The team, owing probably to the many years on the sidelines, did not manage a good position in the
tournament that was held in Botswana.

If it was any consolation, the Rwandan girls’ team was lauded for its high level of discipline, commitment
and passion.

The team, which fielded the youngest players on average, was praised by IRB Women’s development officer,
Susan Carty, CAR representative at the tournament, Cliffie Booysen and CAR Women rugby developer, Gifty Ann
Myers, who saw a lot of potential in the future of the team.

They however also noted that this will only be possible if the team is well groomed.

Makerere 10s

This tournament was postponed to early next year.

Schools rugby

This year, many schools took part in various 7s tournaments held in various locations in the country.

Apred-Ndera won the federation organized schools’ tourney while Ruhango-Rukoma emerged victors in the
Ministry of Education organized inter District tournament.

Ruhango represented Rwanda in the Federation of East African Schools (FEASA) tournament held in Mbarara,
Uganda. They put up a great performance but did not manage podium position.

Sponsors

Much as the game is growing, it is doing so against many odds. The biggest challenge is lack of a rugby
ground and corporate sponsorship. However, this year, Inyange Industries sponsored the league with milk,
juice and water worth Rwf 10 million.

The Ministry of Sports and CAR were also on board.

MINISPOC also offered Amahoro National Stadium to rugby for its international games and a few selected
national league and 7s games.

Various friends of Rwanda such as Hughes Dave, his family and a few other individuals chipped in with rugby
jerseys, balls and other much needed rugby kits.

Management

It is apparent that the Rwanda Rugby Federation, led by Otto Vianney Muhinda, registered some successes but
emphasis should be put in better team work, setting up working committees and securing a rugby pitch and
more corporate sponsorship.

Highlights-Top Players

 National 15s league – Buffaloes’ top scorer Vincent Kamali takes top spot followed by second top scorer
and team mate Lucien Bikamba for helping the team carry the league trophy.

Gikondo Sharks’ Moise Habumugisha also gets a nod for steering his team to second place. Koko Cambara is
also recognized for holding the UNR Grizzlies reigns firm.

CAR 15s – Olivier ‘Pappy’ Nikwigize with two tries walked away with the MVP award.

Jinja 7s – Kamali with 10 tries and top scorer

Safaricom 7s – Allan Otim, Aime Ndahirwa, Koko Cambara, Benjamin Makombe, Moise Habumugisha and Olivier
Uwamahoro

Local 7s – Buffalo as a team for sweeping all trophies available

- Top Coach – Gerald Nsenga for Remera Buffaloes’ success and for lifting the CAR 15s trophy.

- Rugby ambassador – RRF’s Alex Araire for bringing in two new clubs, Tumba Jaguars and Muhanga RFC while
also supporting Kamonyi’s Puma.

Women’s rugby – Jean de la Paix Hategekimana a.k.a Heavy, for revamping Rwandan women’s rugby and hosting
the first Women’s Day 7s tourney.

Rwanda Rugby friend – Hughes Dave for once again taking Rwanda to the Hong Kong 10s, organizing a local 7s

tournament in honour of his parents and providing numerous rugby kit.

 

Referee – Andrew Kettlewell

Schools- Apred-Ndera and ETTO-Ruhango

Overall assessment of rugby in 2011 is positive. A lot still needs to be improved if the game is to grow in
stature and visibility but it is evident that it is on the right path.

A lot is expected in 2012 starting with the way clubs are run (some clubs such as Simba and Gorillas are
currently nonexistent), increased sponsorship, a more vibrant national 15s league and better performances
in international engagements.

I sign off by echoing Canada based Dog River Howlers’ moto: Rugby is not just a game, it’s a way of life.

We wish you a prosperous New Year.

Joseph.bugabo@newtimes.co.rw