Jamba Ulengo is ready to mix it up with the best wingers in this country.
Jamba Ulengo is ready to mix it up with the best wingers in this country. And there are a lot of them – and they’re all gunning for bigger and better honours than playing just Super Rugby.
At 30, Ulengo is no spring chicken, but after a few years in the rugby wilderness he’s keen to get stuck in again and show what he can do.
And this time it’ll be in the red and white of the Lions – the franchise who’ve thrown him something of a lifeline following his near career-ending knee injury.
“In life you get opportunities, but they also get taken away from you,” he said about his 2017 knee problem ended his time with the Bulls and which was eventually sorted out by a Swedish doctor in 2018.
“Just recently was the time in my life where I had to find myself as a person as well as a rugby player. There have been some dark times … I went through a tough period there (with the knee injury), when friends were few and opportunities weren’t forthcoming,” he said.
But after a quick turn at the Free State last year – where it all started for Ulengo, who was schooled in Bloemfontein – he got the chance to join the Lions and is now hoping to reignite his career.
“I feel privileged to be a part of this Lions team. I’ve got so much love and passion for the game and can’t wait to see what I can do on the field again.
“I’m fully fit and healthy, the hunger is there, and I want to play the best I can play.”
Ulengo is likely to be Courtnall Skosan’s wing partner this season, and the two are set for some intriguing duels against their local opponents.
The Sharks have in their ranks the dynamic and powerful World Cup duo of Sbu Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi, while the Stormers boast strong finishers like Seabelo Senatla, Edwill van der Merwe and Sergeal Peterson, as for the Bulls, they can push the likes of Rosko Specman and Cornal Hendricks into action.
“I think the pool of wingers that we currently have in South Africa, including Mapimpi and Nkosi, and also a guy like Cheslin Kolbe (who plays overseas), have grabbed their opportunity and are running with it. The pool is exciting because we can all push each other … it’s an exciting time for South African rugby,” said Ulengo.
He is hoping to also get his name in the national reckoning at some stage this year and he believes the Lions are the team that will bring the best out of him.
“I’m definitely excited about the type of rugby the Lions play. It suits me, as they like to run the ball more (than some of the teams) and I’m looking forward to that, to scoring tries again and getting the ball in space. I’m going to take it one day at a time though, but also push myself to surpass the levels I’ve achieved before.”
The Lions’ final Super Rugby squad will be named later this week and their first competition match is next Saturday when they clash with the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.