Kandy’s Clifford Cup win adds spice to its rugby saga

by Ravi Nagahawatte


Kandy Sports Club’s win over Navy Sports Club in the Clifford Cup knockout finals underscored that rugby means the whole world to the Nittawela club and the people of Kandy.

As much as Kandy is a cultural heritage city and attracts so many tourists, the rugby that the players of this club play was helpful in attracting something close to 30,000 spectators to Bogambara Stadium last Sunday (Aug. 1). The crowd, one of the biggest seen in the sport after the war concluded last year, watched in awe as Kandy SC demolished the ‘sailors’ in almost all departments of the game.

This game, the decider in the Caltex Clifford Cup, benefited largely by the presence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the chief guest at the occasion and a huge fan of the game. The President must have been very proud to see his three sons don the Navy SC jersey. And it is this kind of participation in sport by the aristocratic and the powerful that adds to the image of sport. Rugby in Sri Lanka is a sport played by ‘kings’!


Bogambara History –

The city of Kandy was always in the centre-stage in the islanders’ battles against the British. There is an intense national feeling, if one is observant of the feelings within, when we visit Kandy and walk around its city, especially when Buddhists enter the Dalada Maligawa, which stands majestically in the heart of Kandy. The wars we fought are history now and at present we must do nothing else but focus on the positives and the good times that we can all enjoy.

History will tell us the venue for the rugby final, Bogambara Stadium, was also the place where the Brave Madduma Bandara showed his elder brother how to face death bravely. Records state that he was slain at Bogambara on May 17, 1814 on instructions of King Rajasinghe. But then we can also remember Bogambara, not for gruesome acts like these but instead for the many rugby battles which have taken place there, at this stadium. Likewise, the four tries Kandy SC scored against Navy last Sunday will be spoken about for a long time.


Kings’ Sons –

Sport is a thing which unites people and rugby has given an opportunity for the affluent, the not so affluent, the aristocratic and those from the down trodden masses to play in one platform. Where else can you tackle a king’s son and make sure his pants get dirty? All that in the best spirit of sport and hats off to all the President’s sons who showed us that they could take the hard knocks in rugby and also play alongside any player regardless of class, race and religion.

All these comparisons are good, but Kandy SC’s skill at rugby stood out ahead of the rest like the tallest tree in a forest. Their win last Sunday showed that this club is now in the core of Kandy culture.

Kandy’s win will serve the purpose of giving hope to the players of the Central Province to remain in rugby. This thinking is very applicable at a time the rugby players sit for their Advanced Level Examination making plans for their future. It will also nudge potential sponsors who wish to associate themselves with Kandy rugby.


Attracting Sponsors –

This is a time when the sport’s premier sponsor Caltex is yet to commit itself for another term and matches like these and the large crowds that thronged the Bogambara Stadium suffice to stir things up and make rugby look more attractive.

We must also remember that Kandy is a great tourist attraction and sees the presence of tourists right throughout the year. This writer was in for a surprise when those walking along Kandy town on one side of the pavement were educated about the right way to do it by using an alternative path by an officer on duty. It is also known that pedestrians crossing the road in unprotected areas are forced to pay huge fines. Most streets are one-way and the whole system in Kandy runs like clockwork!


Strength of Kandy SC –

We are told that the Kandy SC players are disciplined and the distractions, present in other parts of the country, are very limited here and hence the success of the Kandy SC players. Kandy might not be the best place for employment, but where rugby is concerned, the professionalism present in Kandy SC rugby set up stands tall.

At the time of writing, we have unconfirmed reports that one of Kandy SC’s leading players is contemplating leaving the club.

And in response to this, another leading player in the club has opined that rugby at the Nittawela Club is rock solid and wouldn’t give way just because ‘one of the best ones’ leaves them! As for Kandy rugby, the strength of those sitting in the Nittawela Club’s bench is as good as those on the field.



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