In Summary

Rugby. If anything is clear, it is that Saturday’s halfback combination signals a change of guards. The two Ivans (Magomu and Kirabo) given the nod at halfback will hope to be in all-conquering form.

Kampala.

If Rugby Cranes are to stretch the Kenya Simbas’ defence and not entirely seek contact or rely on forward power, they will need their halfback combination to show up in Saturday’s Elgon Cup first leg at Legends Club.

Since rejoining the Rugby Cranes backroom staff as he always does this time of the year, South African coach John Duncan has been as phlegmatic as ever.

His high-intensity training sessions have, however, showed a healthy desire to sharpen the reaction skills of Rugby Cranes’ backline.

While he has always been a safe pair of hands, there were telltales that the swashbuckling style that Duncan has in mind would not suit veteran outside-half, Chris ‘Opa’ Lubanga. And so it proved yesterday when it came to light that the seasoned campaigner won’t be in Rugby Cranes’s matchday squad at all.
The Rugby Cranes backroom staff has been quick to quibble over semantics, insisting Lubanga has been rested and not dropped.
There has been a suggestion that Lubanga could have a role to play during the reverse Elgon Cup fixture in Nairobi which will also double as a Rugby Africa Gold Cup match.

Halfback combination
That, though, has not been affirmed with the certainty and finality of a scientist.

If anything is clear, it is that Saturday’s halfback combination signals a change of guards.
The two Ivans (Magomu and Kirabo) given the nod at halfback will hope to be as all-conquering as their namesake Ivan the Terrible.

Magomu and Kirabo may have also showcased some of the shenanigans of the Russian Tsar in the past, but they have been quick to lay claim to maturity.

Kirabo, who fell out spectacularly with Herbert Wafula while at Rimula Rhinos, greeted the news that he will start at scrum-half with a simple statement: “Hard work pays.”

Most of that hard work has been put in during Kenyan topflight league matches.

Magomu too has put in the hours during an injury-plagued season with Buzz Pirates in Uganda. He, nevertheless, enhanced his reputation as a flawed genius when he missed out on international duty with the sevens team after aggravating a long-standing knee problem while playing, wait for it, Sunday league football. There was no throwing of toys out of the pram, but Magomu will always be Magomu.

Wafula, a former Rugby Cranes captain and distinguished back in his own right, says he’s not surprised with the decision to hand Magomu rugby union’s most celebrated shirt. “It had to be Magomu because of the simple fact that he has the X-factor.”
Because received wisdom rarely comes with a receipt, it is hard to tell which part of Ivan the Terrible will show up on Saturday. Duncan will, however, desperately hope that the halfback combination clicks immediately. Former Impis scrum-half Samuel Guma believes the two Ivans can work up a chemistry. “If Magomu can get a fast and accurate pass in attack, he will cause lots of mayhem.”

There is a caveat from Guma though. “The forwards should really hold their ground and give Kirabo clean ball. If the pressure from the Kenya pack is too much and we start back pedalling, it will be a long day in the office for the nine and 10.”

Both halfbacks will nonetheless be eager to please. If denied clean ball, they may have to readjust to an attacking kicking game. Magomu delivered a classic fly-half performance in Nairobi last year, but never came off as Rugby Cranes’s chief playmaker. That honour was taken by fullback Phillip Wokorach whose brilliant offload that followed a scintillating up and under fashioned Magomu’s try. With the Kenyans set to mark the inside of Wokorach’s jersey on Saturday, Magomu will get a golden chance to show just how devastating he can be attacking with ball in hand. He will also need for his partner-in-crime (Kirabo) to put up his hand as both Ivans set out to show a terribly good all-conquering streak.