Rugby 101: The Basics

This one is for the commoner, the so called ‘rugby dummy’ –this demeaning term, sigh. We all start somewhere, and in this context getting to understand the sport of Rugby isn’t the easiest of things, for starters…



With the ever growing troop of enthusiasts to local rugby matches, as witnessed recently when Kenya played hosts to Uganda (Elgon Cup/RA Gold cup), Tunisia and Senegal (both for the Rugby Africa Gold Cup). It is evident that rugby is a growing weekend plan, for many obvious reason- even the weird ones, such as the thrill of watching shredded and stealthy-belly trotting athletes in skimpy shorts knock the daylights out of each other -laughs, to having a chance to stare at the beaming beauties, bachelors we see you.

Some bachelorettes too, brand marketing pale RFUEA, I bet there are many couples that have their foundation cemented at the stands of this arena…

That notwithstanding though, the ever growing popularity in rugby has brought about imparity in understanding of the game. From starters to staunch side stand tacticians and I am out to assist the starters, but before that, lets understand this…

The ‘Fanatics’ and ‘Fun-atics’

A quick interpretation of the two;

The Fanatic cuzo, is well versed with terms and rules of the game, or fairly doing well in interpreting calls made by the center referee. He is also the coach, player and referee from the stands… add to that, the Video Referral Assistant (VRA) or in rugby 101 terms, thee TMO guy.


Fanatics & ‘Fun’-atics? You decide | Safaricom, Pic-centre

On the other hand, Funatics; are the ‘lesser versed ones’–for lack of a better term- of some sort on matters rugby. They are ever talkative of anything rugby unrelated, when the game is in general play. They will be filled in a myrrh of ecstasy and jubilation when a pacey one sprints to the end of the pitch and dives into the greens- a plus. They are the ever inquisitive ones, which of course is an indicator they are keen. But it’s the bogging questions they ask that can really get to the nerves of a ‘Fanatic’…

Why did he do that? What does that mean? What is that for? Where are they running to? Why is he throwing it that way? Of course they end with an ‘ouch!’ for every tackle or fend… Jeez!

To tackle some of the commonly used terminologies and acts in the field of rugby, here is a run through the most basic of Rugby Union, 15-A-side.


A game of rugby 15-A-side, lasts 80 minutes with two halves of 40 minutes each. The objective being for the offence (the team in possession of the ball) to get past the defense and score a TRY –NOT A GOAL, A TRY.

In rugby the ball is carried forward, can be kicked forward but NEVER passed forward

Numerically, there are 15 players and 7 reserves (regularly referred to as substitutes) making a total of 22 players drafted for a game.

What is a TRY?

A try a is a score awarded when the offence gets past the defense and brings the ball to ground at the latter’s try box. Now, a try box is the extended patch of green behind those taaaaaaall posts that form a letter ‘H’.

try c

Kenya and South Africa’s sensationals Collins Injera & Seabelo Ssenatla, respectively earning a try. By placing & by diving, essence is to ground the ball whilst still at hand | Getty Images, SA Rugby Mag

A try is worth 5 points. Don’t ask what is a Penalty try, zile rahisi kwanza please.




Kenya’s International Darwin Mukidza (left) & Former New Zealand All Blacks international Dan Carter (right) line up place kicks | Michael Khateli,

A team that scores a try is handed an opportunity to CONVERT the ball for an extra 2 points, done by a place kick (kicking the ball from ground)- in the case of 15-A-side rugby or a drop-kick in 10s/7s-A-Side rugby, towards the taaaaaaall ‘H’ posts. A successful CONVERSION is when the ball goes through the upper part of the ‘H’… not below as it happens in soccer.

Ama hiyo soccer mtauilizia ni nini, okay Football then.

A successful penalty is worth 3 points and is awarded in case of an infringement. Another way of getting additional points is through a drop-goal kick aimed at the ‘H’ in open play (mchezo ukiendelea), which is worth 3 points.

Remember, a conversion/drop kick is 2 points; a drop-goal/penalty is 3 points. Sawa?

Why are they bent like that, what is a RUCK?

Ladies, you are the culprits at asking this, which is okay though, coz they will always explain. This one occurs when two opposing players COME INTO CONTACT OVER THE BALL, characterized by players having their butt ends protruding at a very precise angle, and seem to be involved in a tussle.

The scenario happens when the attacking player (one who is carrying the ball forward) takes the ball into contact and is tackled to ground by an opposing player. The opposing player (or his teammate) while trying to take the ball, comes into contact with the teammate of the offense player on ground who is trying to keep him off the ball, this contention forms a RUCK. At this juncture I would fancy to say the opposing player going for the ball is referred to as a Jackal

Ruck Scrumhalf connection

Players going through a rugby ruck drill, in this instance the jackal (player on the right) has not come into contact with offence player (on the right), thus is at liberty to play the ball | Scrumhalf Connection

Three things

-It is not a ruck if the jackal heads for the ball, before the contention ensues.

-A jackal is not allowed to put his/her hands into the rack once a contention has ensued (coming into contact with the opposing player). This is subject to how quick it happens of course.

-The jackal MUST be on his feet. Others will try to confuse you with ‘Support your weight’ stick with the basics

Ouch! Is that what they call a TACKLE?

This is basic, happens when the defending player stops the attacking player from getting past his defense by wrapping his arms around him anywhere below the shoulders and bringing him down.

Please, don’t be shocked when the tackler is carded, or his team is penalized for what is an ‘illegal tackle’.


Tackle techniques , in order from Left to Right: Front On (high-hold) tackle; Front On (Side) tackle & Front On (Crash) tackle | Zapper photography, World Rugby.

As a tackler you are not supposed to take the offense player past the horizontal.

-A tackler is supposed to wrap his hands around the ‘tacklee’, lol.

-A tackler should neither release the ‘tacklee’ mid-air in any manner, nor tackle a player who is off the ground

-A tackler is not to tackle a player without a ball. Its Rugby not American Football.

This is interesting, its called a SCRUM?

This one fascinates a lot of starters, they wonder why men are squatting and locking ‘imaginary horns’ like bulls do somewhere in Bhukungu Stadium. I won’t explain more than the picture below, as I maintain on just furnishing the coat not the pockets.



Kitale and UoE Trojans engaged in a srum | Kuyo Photography

A scrum usually takes place to restart play after infringements and errors.

A scrum, in 7s-a-side, consist of 3 players from either side that engage (in, crouching, binding and setting). And a player on either side that acts as the scrum-half; the one who feeds the ball into the scrum. In 15-A-side, it entails an additional of 5 more players to make it 8 on either side and of course with a scrum half.

Be warned though, in the latter it would, at times, take plenty of time to play a scrum as stability and the wellness of the players is of great concern.

Lol, why are they lifting him up? LINE OUT

This is where players stand as if in two parallel queues, (leaving a gap in between referred to as a tunnel) and there is a contest to lift a player and catch a ball thrown in the air from touch, mid air.

lineout Flickr

Here is a nice snapshot of a line-out | Flickr

A LINEOUT is meant to bring the ball back into field of play, after it has gone out. The opposing team is always the beneficiary of this when the ball goes out, but there is an exception, when the ball has been kicked out of field of play (put to touch) owing to a kick to touch from a penalty kick.

Enough for today….

To that extent, for a starter in matters ‘fun-atical’ I bet one can attend and quite grasp much of a rugby game, say 50% averagely without being overly confused with the action. Of course there is so much with terminologies and other things left out, but I figured starting with the basics wouldn’t hurt much.

Plus, this post would be really long. Thus, internalize this, share widely before our next Test match against Hong Kong. Stay woke!


Elgon Cup, Twende Game

Tides have been changing lately in the Kenya rugby scene, there is an evident shift of attention from the shorter version to the rugby fifteens. If you were keen to watch or attend the Kenya Vs Germany test, there were many lessons to learn other than, ‘it is not over till it is’.


Kenya vs Uganda, Elgon Cup return leg poster, KRU.

The growing love for the sport and/or activities that evolve around it, was unmatched in the Kenyans-Germans clash. Besides having the accreditation of a full test, the prior social platforms marketing strategy (either planned or default) was efficient. Friends passed on the message to friends, who subsequently passed the same to their other friends… and they did show up in numbers. A thumbs up from this end to all those that had part in the overall turn out, directly or indirectly.

Why you shouldn’t miss the return leg

That is a done bill though, soon after we got into the next; The Elgon Cup, which as it stands, I am late to cover- besides the prolonged drought on the blog. Leg one of the same was done away with down at Kampala, Uganda. Kenya survived a lengthy 70+ minutes scare of a loss only to recover through the blessed boot of the Skipper Darwin Mukidza. Game ended at 23-18 , in favor of Kenya.

kawowo scrum

Scrum action in Leg 1 of the Elgon Cup photo: Kawowo Sports

The second leg is set to be hosted in Nairobi at the RFUEA Grounds, on the 24th of June, 2017. With the close-shaves in our immediate two matches as described above, we are sitting on a bayou, the return leg could only be a must win. We cannot risk a slump in the standings no matter how slim.

Its another chance for the ruby enthusiasts and those looking to have a thrill of the game, to show up and cheer on the team, besides other things… that in mind, I sort to level reasons why I should not miss the action on the 24th- by ‘I’ also include those who have a likewise feeling.

1.Support your own.

I love rugby, a fact, I play rugby, another fact. Any chance I get, and have the ability, to watch the national outlook of that which I fancy play, we cyah negotiate. A thing to three will have me troop to RFUEA.


Fanatics, Kenya vs Germany. Shujaa Pride


And also, if you cant support your own (Kenya 15s) at least then take along a friend or two and help them support their own. Before i forget, in the Kenya vs Germany test there was a low-key campaign of having the RFUEA filled at 6000, we can have another low key this time for 7000, its attainable.

2. Electric atmosphere


6000 (or thereby) strong turn up in Kenya-German clash

If we can manage an outstanding turnout akin to two weekends ago, there will be little room for disappointments. The Kenyan rugby fans are known to be one of the most entertaining lot, very supportive of their own, fact check with World Rugby, this cant be fallacy. There is no greater opportunity to mingle and sing along with the world best fans at their own turf, as such.

In fact we should give the board room chaps a reason to start reconsidering the venue of this year’s Safari 7s… ama namna gani my fren’s?

NB: ‘Mexican wave’ is a continuous thing, so those ‘boring’ attendees at the main stand next time it starts at the Russian end, complete the motion please… such are the things we come to do- besides watching rugby, etc.

3. Mee(a)t, Greet & merry

The great thing about rugby events is how they cater for a majority of your accompanied needs, you get an all inclusive weekend at one venue.

Get yourself a fancy spot at the stands, spot out the beautiful Tusker ladies and buy your belly some ‘fermented barley extracts’. Watch the game, chant, scream, yell, cheer, jeer.

Half time, go nibble at goat ribs or chicken wings or fries at Quins bar area.


A half time indulgence, others prefer at full time

Second half, just buy crisps and fried peanuts from the familiar face. Watch till the 80th, slide to the Quins Bar, again, make new friend (call out on the old ones) as you enjoy a cold one, spot a Ugandan indulge in a light (or deep) banter. Eye other niceties too and indulge thyself -with moderation. We still need the CEOs and Workers to build this nation and of course to throng the venue again in our next match.

There goes my three ‘reasons why’ you should attend the Elgon Cup, whats yours?


Team of the November Tests

November 2016 was a great month of rugby action more so at the international scenery. New Zealand stretched their list of accomplishments with the longest run wins to eighteen (18). While still relishing that they were humbly beat by Ireland, the latter recording their first ever win over the Southerners – and it was big, 40-29! And it was done in a domineering fashion.


In subsequent weeks of the November,  Africa’s sole Tier One team- South Africa’s Boks, recorded their worst run in the test series for as lengthy as I can recall. In the midst of all that, they had an unfamiliar, arguably the upset of the tests, and 2016, to the Azurris; Italy. The Boks had never lost to Italy since 1995. Mind you, the weekend before they had also altered the history books, losing 37-21 to England for a first time in 10 years.

For the Aussies, it was same old. Win some lose. They probably should have tried winning against the ‘Big boys’ too; England, New Zealand & the Irish.

The Bench’s Team of November Tests

We took the liberty of sampling some of the best performance and orchestrators of November at the tests, drafting our ‘Team of the Tests’. With the heavy presence of New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, have a read at who made the cut:

15 Ben Smith ( New Zealand)

A very fantastic asset he has been for the ‘Blacks. He has been lethal at attacking from his depth and his sights on pockets at the opponents sets his apart from the once favored Israel Folau of Australia. The latter was good at aerial balls… agreed. Also contesting on this one was Irish Rob Kearney.

14 Dane Haylett-Petty ( Australia)

Superb attack and defense from the Aussie, he was quite a player to look at in all games he featured. Had great line breaks majority of the time and salvaged much of the meters for Australia. Watching the Aussies games on my PC, I couldn’t help but notice the commentator mentioning Haylette-Petty in quite a number of rucks and tackles and line breaks made for Australia. New Zealand’s Israel Dagg was a favorite for this spot, but well..

13 Jonathan Joseph (England)

I was in a fix for selecting the right man for this position, England’s Joseph or Aussie’s Kuridrani. Both had exemplary performance for their respective teams, great ball carriers and all. The decider was the fixture pitting the two teams and Jonathan Joseph was the winner with his pivotal role for the English, his brainy kick behind the Aussie defense to set up Marland Yarde for a try was superb.  Hot on the heels for this one is Tevita Kuridrani

12 Wesley Fofana (France)

The World Cup 2012 finalist might be on a receiving end but they sure had a skillful player at inside centre. Fofana had an advantage over other nominees for the slot with his fancy footwork and that to carries made and line breaks, certainly a player worth the mention. His well coordination with Vakatawa and at defense especially against New Zealand forced the latter to change tact and go for more kicks; Barret admitted to it at the end of the game.

11 Simon Zebo ( Ireland)

The best option for this position, he had excellent line breaks for his team and was essential in giving his side and edge in ground gained. He is also a committed one at tackles and highly competitive at aerial balls.

10 Beauden Barret (New Zealand)

With the exit of Carter to Europe, we couldn’t think All Blacks would find an excellent playmaker to fit his role. With Cruden’s injury having him sidelined for days on end prior to his recovery , Barret stepped up to the opportunity, made super breaks for a number 10-well, with his pace… was great with the boot, and was a great link between the Forwards and Backs. Completely benching Cruden.

England’s George Ford came close too.

9 Conor Murray (Ireland)

After the horse-like work for the Irish in their game against New Zealand, you could hardly mention this position without his name popping up. Would have loved to see a match up against Aaron Smith in this match…

Were it not for his team’s poor performance, South Africa’s Francois ‘Faf’ de Klerk would also have been a contender. France sensational rising star Serani, is equally as competitive at the same position. Coming off the bench against All Blacks, gifting them quite some havoc and resulting to a beautiful try, off his reverse pass.


-Now guys I have no different opinion from the forwards list that was posted on Planet rugby in their Team of November Tests, so without further ado here is your best of the eight for the month of November, (direct excerpt from Planet Rugby)-

8 Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)

Heaslip was outstanding in November, with few other loose forwards matching his work-rate, leading from the front in every game. Now a veteran in Ireland’s back row, he has enjoyed a real resurgence over the last few weeks. Billy Vunipola continues to grow in stature under Eddie Jones’ coaching while Facundo Isa is slowly but surely becoming one of the best number eighths in the world.

7 David Pocock (Australia)

Pocock will take a hiatus from rugby in 2017 and there is little doubt Australia will miss his dearly. During November, the versatile loose forward, a tackling machine, made an incredible 63 tackles in five Tests, averaging almost 13 a game. Recalled out of the wilderness by Eddie Jones due to injuries, Tom Wood made the most of his second chance with some strong performances for England. Josh van der Flier and Justin Tipuric also stood out.

6 CJ Stander (Ireland)

Possibly Ireland’s standout player of 2016, Stander can now be considered one of the best flankers in the world. His work-rate is impressive and Stander has gone from a newcomer in Ireland’s back row to becoming a key leadership figure. Chris Robshaw enjoyed an excellent run of matches, which is remarkable a year on from when some thought he would never play for his country again, and he played a key role in helping England establish their dominance up front.

5 Courtney Lawes (England)

With second-row injuries dominating England’s build-up ahead of the series, Lawes needed to hit the ground running with this chance, which he certainly did. While Jonny Gray got through a mountain of work for Scotland and George Kruis was a presence for England, we go for his team-mate as our number five after a physical month that he should be proud of.

4 Devin Toner (Ireland)

To get in ahead of Brodie Retallick takes some doing but Toner deserves his spot. With Paul O’Connell retiring, Ireland needed a figurehead at lock and the Leinsterman provided it in November with some towering displays in green, especially in the wins over New Zealand and Australia. Alun Wyn Jones was outstanding against Argentina too.

3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)

What a meteoric rise it has been for Furlong this year. He’s taken over from Mike Ross and the Irish have never looked back. So powerful in the contact area as we saw against the All Blacks and the rest this November, the tighthead gets the nod ahead of Dan Cole and Sekope Kepu who were both excellent for England and Australia respectively last month.

2 Dane Coles (New Zealand)

Continues to set the bar that other hookers struggle to reach. His speed and skills are like a centre and he followed up impressive Super Rugby, June and Rugby Championship showings to edge Ireland’s Rory Best as our hooker.

1 Mako Vunipola (England)

Really has moved up another gear as a player in the past year or so as he pushes hard alongside Jack McGrath for the starting British and Irish Lions jersey in New Zealand. Got through a ton of work in November with his ball skills and scrummaging also solid for England who, like loosehead Vunipola, has enjoyed an outstanding 12 months of international rugby.