Muhanga 7s, a sign of rugby’s growth in Rwanda

Last weekend, many a rugby enthusiast was either at the Kacyiru Red Cross grounds or wished they were there. That was the venue for what one would aptly refer to as the country’s premier rugby 7s tournament, the Buffalo 7s.
Buffaloes' Jean Paul Nsengiyumva (R) prepares to tackle a Tumba Jaguars player in the recent 7s tourney. The New Times/ T. Kisambira
Buffaloes' Jean Paul Nsengiyumva (R) prepares to tackle a Tumba Jaguars player in the recent 7s tourney. The New Times/ T. Kisambira

Last weekend, many a rugby enthusiast was either at the Kacyiru Red Cross grounds or wished they were there. That was the venue for what one would aptly refer to as the country’s premier rugby 7s tournament, the Buffalo 7s.

The games did not disappoint if we are to go with the intense final between hosts Remera Buffaloes and Lions de fer. The latter showed little or no respect for the hosts drawing first blood and causing fans’ hearts to race in over drive.

However, the Buffaloes won…with just two points. But a very important win nevertheless. What it however gave the other teams was hope that they can, if they prepared well, beat this currently invincible team…the mighty Buffaloes.

What one should note about the two finalists is the importance they have placed on proper management. Before the end of 2011, they both elected office bearers to run their clubs.

Lions de fer even went ahead for a serious recruitment drive for players. Maybe with time, Buffaloes will have serious contenders once again.

Till lately, Gikondo based Sharks seemed the only contenders but whose sole aim was not to win the league but to beat the Buffaloes. Lions de fer seems to be having an all rounder approach and attitude.

Back to Muhanga rugby club. First and foremost, one has to laud this relatively young club for the brave decision to host a tournament. The next 7s tournament slated for February 18, 2012.

According to one of its officials and founder, Alex Araire, the club based in Muhanga District has set a modest target in as far as Silverware is concerned but aims at setting the highest standard in tournament organization.

“We will be up against the very best like Buffaloes, Lion der Fer, Sharks but that will not deter our target of reaching the semis,” the veteran player reportedly told The New Times.

He added that the Club will need to raise Rwf 1 million for a successful tournament.

Aside the modest target the Club has set itself in terms of silverware and regardless of how the tournament will turn out, it shouldn’t be lost on us that a tournament hosted and held upcountry has far greater benefits for the game.

In order to know how much excitement the game generates among Rwandans, one only need to watch a game between an ‘outside’ team and a local team.

The locals really cheer their boys on. The whole village or should I say District literally turns up.  And that is when only two teams are involved. Imagine the excitement which will be generated when over ten teams are involved.

This will most likely create a kung-fu movie effect, especially among the kids and youth. With the kung-fu movie effect, I am referring to those moments when kids watch a kung-fu movie and immediately after, want to try out what they saw.

In this case, it will be rugby and fortunately for them, the basic rules of rugby are so easy to learn, the game will just realize a surge of new converts.

This will be great for the game but also great for the sponsors and advertisers who will be on board. As witnessed from the Buffalo 7s, companies are starting to appreciate rugby as a great marketing tool.

Sulfo Industries, Skenia Rwanda Motors Ltd, Merez Petroleum and Azam made the Buffalo 7s a colourful tournament.

As you know, rugby is a game characterized by strength, endurance, team spirit, solidarity and respect. Great qualities for a company to want to associate with. Also given the numbers involved, in terms of players and fans, companies would really be sure of mileage for their products’ awareness.

Muhanga rugby club taking the game home to Muhanga District will be a great boost. It will also push the club to step up its game in order not to disappoint the home crowds.

Talking about stepping up their game, it is evident that Muhanga and its new counterparts Kamonyi District based Pumas and Rulindo District base Tumba Jaguars have really been working hard.

Watching them play during the recent tourney, one would think they have been around for quite a while. Their overall ball handling and game reading skills have improved tremendously.

Their tackles and speed are comparable to any of the older clubs and their heart is definitely in the right place. They take rugby the way it is, as a game. They obviously had respect for all but feared none.

Fans and rugby enthusiast should therefore mark and highlight February 18, 2012 on their calendars, hard copy or electronic. They shouldn’t miss the Muhanga 7s.

Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate all the former UNR Grizzlies who graduated yesterday at the National University of Rwanda, Butare.

They were the pioneers of the game at the country’s national university. We wish them all the best out here and may they continue with the game in other clubs and capacities.

joseph.bugabo@newtimes.co.rw

joseph.bugabo@gmail.com

The author is a rugby player and trainer.

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