Uganda’s 7s rugby national team led by Michael Wokorach could easily pick up the gong for team of the year, all sporting disciplines in the country considered.
There has not been a year, when they dominated the back pages as this one with Africa Rugby 7s championship success in April, to begin it all, leading them to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the Rugby 7s World Cup in South Africa.
The 12-12 final scoreline between Uganda and Australia at the Commonwealth games was probably the most unforgettable rugby results in this country’s history. It set Uganda on a path of finishing tenth overall out of 16 nations. In fact, this was followed a 17-31 loss to England in the ninth place playoff.
It was a climb for Uganda from twelfth in the 2018 edition at the Gold Coast, Australia, and a mark of the work that coach Tolbert Onyango has done over the years, to improve the side. Yet, some could easily downplay Uganda’s showing in Birmingham, because some of the world’s best teams like France, Argentina and Ireland are not Commonwealth members.
Therefore, there would be no better platform for Uganda to silence its doubters than the World Cup. The Rugby Cranes went into the tournament ranked 22 in the World of the 24 teams, that had qualified.
But they managed to finish in number 17 overall, following their wins over Hong Kong and Germany, that were ranked seven and six places ahead of Uganda respectively going into the tournament.
SURPRISE JINJA HIPPOS
Over the last 20 years, only one rugby club, Stanbic Pirates, has broken the duopoly of Heathens and Kobs as far as winning any domestic silverware is concerned. But with largely home grown talent, Jinja Hippos rallied from behind, to beat Pirates, Heathens and Kobs, the two-time defending champions to the national 7s title in September.
The 7s season had seven rounds of action. But Hippos only won one round. Because of their overall staying power, managing to make the finals on five occa- sions, and winning one, Hippos showed the importance of consistency in winning leagues!
Like Hippos did in the national 7s championship, they had probably picked up the act from a resolute Heathens, who claimed a sixteenth league title, after they went unbeaten in the 15s rugby league. It was 18 wins in 18 games.
Defence was key for Heathens, who beat second placed Pirates by a 97 points difference, a mark of scoring a lot more and conceding much less than the rest of the league. Heathens invincibility continued to show even in the Uganda Cup, which they recently won, to complete the double.
They conceded only three tries, and scored 15 in four games. In the end, it did not suprise that Heathens Muhammed Athiyo earned the gong of domestic coach of the year.
WOMEN’S RUGBY STILL IN THE BACKWATERS
How the national women’s team would have given anything for at least a try in their preliminary round 2025 World Cup qualifier. They lost to Kenya 20-3 in October. For many of the young ladies that comprise this team, it was a water-shed moment to represent their country, beginning with a 36-17 win over Zambia.
But when push came to shove, their in- experience showed. The lack of adequate domestic activity, has inhibited many
of these players from realizing their full potential. The top flight league has only four teams, whose main force now, is the Avengers from Entebbe.
However, the fact that the likes of Faith Namugga, Peace Lekuru and Charlotte Mudoola among others may only play less than 10 league games a year in the glare of the Uganda Rugby Union, is disconcerting for many. It is the reason that even at the end of 2022, women’s rugby remains in the backwaters, sadly!
Source: The Observer