- Rugby. Coach Lutakome is optimistic Uganda Rugby Union will allow them host a leg of the 2019 National 7s Circuit and Rugby Cranes game in future.
MASAKA. Sometime in 2015, staunch rugby fan Patrick Kagimu thought of an idea that would shape rugby development in Masaka District.
Kagimu, who started out at Kyadondo Rugby Club’s Saracens and also had a stint at Nkumba University, had just seen out his playing days at Toyota Buffaloes – and certainly needed something exciting to keep him in the game he loves.
“I sat somewhere in my friend Arthur Mukama’s bar and mooted the idea of setting up a rugby club in my hometown,” Kagimu tells SCORE. Mukama plays for Heathens and the Rugby Cranes.
Kagimu then travelled to Masaka to implement the idea but it dawned on him that he was never going to achieve it on his own. He needed both technical and financial help.
He had to contact another friend. The enterprising and estimable Ronnie Lutakome came to mind. The two started a journey of both hope and disappointment as they searched for land and finances.
“We approached many companies and they always showed interest but none committed so nothing really matured,” says Lutakome. The tough times did not kill their hopes but only kept them searching for an opening until it came.
In 2016, the path started clearing for this project. Kagimu had become a regular in Masaka and while on a night out at Ambiance, a popular nightspot, he saw a familiar face of Jack Kasozi, someone he had faced during his playing days at Saracens.
Kasozi, a St. Mary’s College Kisubi alumni had played at Sailors which is Pirates’ feeder side. “We quickly got off well and I told him about my dream. Like the others, he, too, had something similar in mind and that was the beginning of another chapter,” a smiley Kagimu narrates.
Kasozi knew his way around Masaka so he introduced Kagimu and Lutakome to David Batten, a Welshman doing charity in the area. The Welshman promised to offer accessories and even help establish a rugby club, unfortunately he got bedridden and was flown back to Wales.
Kasozi then led the duo to his father Herman Kasozi, a Masaka tycoon and proprietor of Nabugabo Sand Beach. He has become the most important member in the group.
The father-son relationship weaved its magic and within no time Herman suggested a piece of land to offer. “I loved their idea and took them to what I thought was a suitable piece of land next to Nabugabo Sand Beach but it turned out to be a bit far from town,” Herman recollects in a sluggish heavy tone.
Then another of his many properties in the heart of Nyendo, two kilometers from Masaka town, sprung to mind. “I showed them another option which suited what we all wanted and the hard work begun,” says Herman.
In 2017, the construction got underway on about four acres of land in Nyendo – Kayilikita, 30 meters off Masaka – Mbarara Road.
A year on, what had been a banana plantation had transformed into a rugby club that can give Legends and Kyadondo, the country’s pillar rugby grounds, a run for their money.
The facility bears a modern gym that is a big improvement on the make-shift and squeezed rooms at other grounds. Since the rugby fans love their fun, the facility comes with ample parking space but there is also a club house, restaurant and bar to cater for their love for the frothy-bitter.
In October last year, the establishment was launched as Masaka Rugby Grounds, home of new side Buddu Rugby Football Club that will have Lutakome as head coach and Kagimu as his deputy.
Brian Makalama, another illustrious tutor, is expected to chip in. Lutakome embodies what Buddu needs. He is a former Rugby Cranes international in both 15s and 7s. He has coached the Rugby Cranes 7s side and Kobs Rugby Football Club, the oldest and most successful rugby side in the country.
Plotting for the future
Lutakome has a clear blueprint of what he envisages at Buddu in future. “In about two years, we want to be competing in the league,” Lutakome revealed to SCORE.
The club will play its first official game on February 16 against Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) Nkozi in the Western Region League. This league also has teams like Mbarara University, Western Titans, Kahaya and Kampala International University (KIU) West.
To get to the topflight, Buddu must top the region to head for the promotion playoffs that will compromise winners from the central, eastern and northern regions. These four regional champions will then play for a sole promotion slot.
Qualifying on debut is a big ask but Lutakome has a plan. “We have already groomed some players and expect to sign some from Kampala to boost our ambitions,” he reveals.
The club wants to work with schools in the region by conducting coaching, medical, officiating clinics. They also plan on launching a Corporates Sunday Touch Rugby League to tap into Masaka’s corporate world.
Lutakome is confident that Uganda Rugby Union (URU) will let them host a leg of the 2019 National Sevens Circuit and hopefully a Rugby Cranes game in future when they tick all the boxes.
URU officials like Yayiro Kasasa (country development manager), Ramsey Olinga (chief executive officer), Simon Mutama (treasurer) and Godwin Kayangwe (general secretary) have already visited the grounds to pass on their blessings.