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Friday, May 21, 2010

Bamburi Rugby Super Series Comes of Age

Started in 2003 as a competition meant to seek for raw talent, groom the future of rugby players and make Kenya a respectable figure in 15 player version of rugby, the Bamburi Super Series is now an East African Rugby Union premier competition that draws the interest of 8 teams from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The tournament was originally sponsored by Unga Limited on its inception before UAP Insurance took over the sponsorship reigns a year later in 2004. In 2005, Bamburi Cement Limited took over and has been sponsoring the tournament since. 

The competition initially involved 5 Kenyan teams. However, the 2008 competition marked a turning point witnessing the inclusion of two Ugandan and one Tanzania team into the competition. In total, there are eight franchises; Lions, Rhinos, Sharks, Cheetahs and Buffaloes from Kenya, Rwenzori and Victoria from Uganda and Twigas from Tanzania. Before this year’s competition, the Rhinos had won the competition 3 times in 2003, 2007 and 2009, the Cheetahs twice in 2004 and 2006 while the Lions won it once in 2008. 

The elite 15-aside competition has earned reputation for its athletic, fast and strong players. In this year’s competition (2010), two teams from Kenya locked horns as the SDV Transami Cheetahs squared off with defending champions and three-time winners, UAP Rhinos. The two dominant franchises earned the right to contest the finals after brushing aside their opponents with aplomb in wet and muddy conditions at the RFUEA grounds in Nairobi. Kenya’s SDV Transami Cheetahs thumped Kampala Coach Rhinos from Uganda 20-3, thanks to tries from fly half Nato Simiyu, back row Kevin Umbuge, and Kevin Gisore, and a successful conversion from scrum half Mike Mugo who also scored a penalty. 

In the second semi-final, defending champions UAP Rhinos had a hard fought 17-5 win over 2008 winners, Lions. And so, the participants for the finals were decided. The finals, played on Saturday May 22nd was highly billed to be a cracker of a match. And it never proved otherwise. The game started on a pedestrian and tentative note with both sides clearly testing their opponent’s waters. 

However, it didn’t take long for the defending champions, Rhinos to record points on the scoreboard, courtesy of a Peter Abuoga penalty after persistent pressure forced Cheetahs into an infringement. 3-0 to the Rhinos. When the Cheetahs finally began to assert their authority, pinning their opponents mostly on their own half, the Rhinos were also forced into making errors and the Cheetahs would be awarded three penalties all of which they squandered. The Rhinos then got rewarded for their offensive prowess, winning another penalty which Abuoga flew high and between the posts to give the defending champions a 6-0 lead heading to half time. 

The second half started in rush with both teams looking for the cutting edge. However, it was the Rhinos who took yet another step towards becoming the first team to defend the title. A David Ambunya dash only ended after he scored the game’s first try. Peter Abuoga successfully converted to give the Rhinos a 13-0 lead. Abuoga then made his own try and after nineteen-year-old center David Ambunya recorded his second try, Abuoga made no mistake as he duly converted to give Rhinos a healthy 25-0 lead. 
The Cheetahs then pushed to get back into the game but only managed one try courtesy of Charles Kanyi. Former Kenya international Moses Kola missed the conversion and by the final whistle, it was the Rhinos who were celebrating and popping champagne having convincingly won the game 25-5. The result makes the Rhinos the first franchise in the tournament’s illustrious history to successfully defend the title. 

In the third place playoff, the Lions beat Uganda’s Kampala Coach Victoria 37-0 to ensure a 1,2,3 finish for Kenyan based teams. Abuoga claimed the top points scorers award with 37 points, while Rhinos player Sidney Ashioya was named man of the series.