Today, all rugby enthusiasts in Rwanda will be heading to the Red Cross Grounds in Kacyiru for what is steadily becoming the country’s premier rugby 7s tournament.
With over eight teams expected to take part in this mouth watering tournament, many a rugby fan should cancel all the other programs of the day and devise ways of tagging along as many friends and family to the grounds.
A vantage point to watch the games from shouldn’t be a bad idea; no one will think you selfish for coming in early and taking up the best spot.
What started as a small tournament attracting only four teams is now a highly anticipated annual event. Buffaloes lost its maiden tournament in 2007 and have since won it in all the subsequent years.
While all teams are scheming for ways of ripping the trophy out of Buffaloes’ hands, the pain of losing it the first time and the subsequent apparent feeling of ecstasy associated with winning it all the years after should make Buffaloes tighten its grip even harder.
What this means is more excitement for the fans. Buffaloes will leave nothing to chance while the other teams are also well aware of what they are up against.
A lot of pace and skills are expected to be displayed on this action filled day.
According to the grapevine, Buffaloes plans to field two teams A and B. And apparently, both teams have vowed to meet in the finals.
“We shall field two teams. Our aim is for both teams to reach the finals and retain the trophy,” said Buffalo President, Gerald Nsenga, who was recently reinstated at its helm during the club’s elections.
The Buffaloes will count on Captain Vincent Kamali’s lightening pace and never-say-die attitude. Also in Buffaloes arsenal is hard hitter and hard running Benjamin Makombe, quick footed and hard tackling Eric Mbarushimana, youngster Jean Paul Nsengiyumva, ever improving Lucien Bikamba and a host of other experienced players.
As all tournaments, Buffaloes shouldn’t expect a walk in the park. Apparently all teams have been training very hard during the off season.
Lions de fer will be boosted by national star Coko Cambara who returned to it after completing his university degree from the National University of Rwanda, Butare.
He is a fast runner, one of the best defenders the country has and can also score from any given distance when he reaps a defence open. He has been playing for the University side, the Grizzlies which he helped found.
Lions de fer will also have on its side Didier Kamanzi who was until recently Buffaloes’ captain. Just like Cambara, he is returning to the club that he started with. He brings to Lions de fer a host of experience as he also took part in the Hong Kong tours. He is also a national team star.
Gikondo based Sharks will also be in contention. However, it might not feature its star player Moise Habumugisha who is undergoing some unrugby related treatment. Also missing will be sensational Aime Ndahirwa who joined the Buffaloes this year.
It will however, have former national skipper Juma Adams and Bernabe Ngizwenayo who has at one time won the MVP gong. Youngster Emmanuel Nduwayezu a.k.a Jazo should also be one of the tournament stars for the Sharks.
However, fans and clubs alike should watch out for last year’s newest entrants Muhanga RFC and Rulindo based Tumba College.
Last year they exhibited a lot of determination and pace albeit with no idea on what to do with the ball. This could be their tournament to shine if they have learnt what to do when they have ball in hand.
“This year, we hope to perform much better,” said Alex Araire, who played a key role in the formation of both teams and has played a vital role in spreading the game up country.
“In order to entrench the game of rugby in Muhanga, the team will also host its 7s tournament soon,” Araire revealed.
National University side, UNR Grizzlies has always come to tournaments promising a lot of firepower. We should see how it will fare without Coko Cambara and the other players who might have completed their university courses.
It will be a surprise if Gorillas make an appearance since they seem to have disintegrated towards the end of last season. However, a 7s tournament such as this could be used as a stepping tool for revival.
To add icing on the cake, these 7s are expected to start the selection process for the national 7s and 10s teams with the most imminent tournament being the Hong Kong 10s.
Players are therefore expected to give their all and a little more so they can catch the fancy of the team scouts and selection panel.
With all that, tell me why all roads will not be heading to the Kacyiru based Red Cross grounds. Come have fun, bring friends and family along!
The author is a rugby player and trainer.