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?


Philip Wokorach in Ten

Quick ten questions with Philip Wokorach- Uganda & Kabras Sugar


Credits: Ragahouse

This week, The Bench got the opportunity to feature sensational Uganda Rugby player Philip Wokorach who also doubles up as Kabras Sugar half back/full back.

In both brief and, at the same time, lengthy questions we  interact and explore his rugby lifestyle, hits and misses in ten (plus an extra topping question of course). From his heroics at the Elgon cup, the Africa Sevens Championships at Kasarani last year to the fair travels in the HSBC Circuit… Meet the man!

TB: You have been a notable member for the Uganda 7s and 15s alike, when did you get acquitted into the sport?

PW: When I was still in Primary School,I joined the Tag Rugby Programme at my school and later Kyadondo Rugby Club

2016 was a great one for Uganda , both in 15s & 7s, winning the Africa cup 7s participating in Capetown 7s, particularly a great one for you starting from the performance in the Elgon Cup. What moment in that period (inclusive of those I haven’t mentioned) would you fancy as your most memorable?

The Africa Cup Sevens championship win in Kenya, we were not fancied to make any impact due to the new names and lack of experience but the boys put in good shift, played with passion to overcome whatever challenge we came across. And I liked it the most because the team just clicked even with the little time we had to train together, we enjoyed every game we played

You signed for Kenya’s Kabras Sugar switching camp from Heathens how would you compare the level of competitiveness in both the two nations?

Rugby in Kenya is more structured in all aspects including Administration unlike in Uganda So that enables teams to be better prepared in terms of sponsorship, player welfare this makes them more competitive in the league

According to reports, you have been at Kabras twice now, first in 2014 then last year. Why did you go back the first time?

I had to go back and finish my studies so I couldn’t remain with the club for long period

Kabras Sugar are having a rather a hard time lately in the league, unlike they did last season, is it the tough competition among teams? Or is it a change of tact at the club?

Clubs have become more competitive this season I should say, a couple of injuries and missing players may have affected us a little

You are athletic and stealthy, just like the game requires, what is your training regime like?

Always try to make sure I work on my weaknesses but work even harder on my strengths. Fitness and health is #1 that means hitting the gym more often, then practice my kicking after training sessions whenever I get the chance, the rest are worked upon during the team training sessions.

How often do you step to the gym in a week?

Well I used to step there at least 3 times a week when I was back in Uganda but now I probably go there at least once a day here at Kabras

When at the gym what key muscle groups do you majorly work on? And how? E.g Shoulder, Military Press, 6 sets of 15 reps each.

Quadriceps, hamstrings,calves, the back and the trapezius. Usually do the dead lift, squats and lunges but switch it up according the club program, I normally do 3 sets, and reps its till I burn out

In improving their overall physicality whilst keeping a good diet, how often do you take meals and snacks in a day? What are the quantities of say carbs, proteins & vitamins?

I have at least 3 meals a day, snacks every after a workout session which varies on some days.

I take in 96 grams of protein and a moderate amount of carbohydrates since am at my target weight!

Rugby as well as other sports all over has been rocked with doping claims. What is your take on use of performance enhancing drug?

We must all try to keep rugby clean, it’s unfair and unethical that some players use performance enhancing drugs which makes it an unfair playing field for other players especially in a sport like rugby that requires a lot of skill, effort and sacrifice by all players in order to be a the very top.

Lastly, assuming you are a S&C in each of the following teams, pick a player  from each that you deem to be the fittest: Uganda’s Heathens, Kenya’s Kabras Sugar, Uganda 15s & Kenya 15s

Vincent  Mose (heathens), Fidel  Oloo (Kabras). Philip wokorach (Uganda 15s) and Darwin mukidza (Kenya 15s)


Side note: In a parallel ‘page’, our edition of the monthly Kenya Cup review still continues, in case you all thought it was a one-off thing, Kenya Cup in February edition is a must read. But for now, I decided to break the monotony and do things the old fashioned way- interview features on the site. In case you haven’t been catching up on previews, reviews on match days and things Kenya 7s, like our Facebook page for the tit-bits.