InternationalNational 15s

Gold Cup Rugby – The rights and wrongs of Uganda against Tunisia

Many rugby fans in Uganda are still in celebratory mode having witnessed the Cranes’ trouncing of the Carthage Eagles at Kyadondo this past Saturday. A win so vital on many fronts for the players, fans and the coaching staff. The pressure had piled and it was clear that another foot set wrong would open all hell’s doors for players and management of the team.

Deservedly though, the boys came out victorious and were propelled from bottom of the table, this provided much needed encouragement with two more consecutive weekends of Gold cup rugby to come; Morocco visits next weekend with familiar foes, Zimbabwe, jetting in the week after. Assuming that all the excitement is starting to find calm, here are some of the rights and wrongs that the Cranes exhibited from their clash with Tunisia.


Efficient ruthless attacking

The Cranes were lethal with ball in hand, in direct contrast to what happened in Nairobi, the Cranes were more confident that they could take their opponents on and that is exactly what happened. The bulkier North Africans stood no chance when they stopped getting possession from the Cranes, who sliced through their defence at will and occasionally powered through them – led by Phillip Wokorach and the juggernaut of a man, captain Asuman Mugerwa; the two bagged 3 and 2 tries respectively. Uganda is very good with ball in hand and that is the kind of Rugby that we should continue to adopt and perfect.

Organised patient defending

Impressively, there were very few missed tackles on the day; save for the opening score and the 2nd Tunisian try, all from scrum down defence, the Cranes were close to immaculate without ball. Knowing when to contest in the break down, slowing down the ball to buy time for the defence line to realign and choosing well when to strike with brutal hits that saw even the biggest of Tunisians pass the ball in fear of being smashed in the Kyadondo mud.
Many a time, there were scenes of the opponent clutching on an arm or a shoulder in pain after encountering contact. This, in my opinion, was key to quelling many of the Tunisian ideas and forcing them into pannick mode which then led the Cranes to take full advantage hence a switch momentum. Highlight of the day defensively came when the Tunisian numner 12 was in diving motion for the try line, probably already in celebration, only to be held up before dotting down – class.

Awareness and Maturity in decision making

The biggest reason why this group is starting to transition is that many of the players have come of age and fit into their roles at the right time. Even prior to this game, in the loss to Kenya, players have been making the right choices that have propelled the team to better outcomes. Case in point; Aaron Ofoirwoth has been an immense revelation, his distribution has been very smart – knowing when or where to pass and when to put in the kicks that pressure the opposition.

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The collective choice to go for points after various attempts at the lineout when down by 5 showed an overall calmness and great understanding of the game that put them 6-5 ahead right before the flood gets opened. This was due to making the right decisons instead of forcing the agenda until the Tunisians succumbed to the resulting pressure.

Phillip Wokorach

Rarely does a nation get a golden goose but in Phillip Wokorach aka Ojus, Uganda discovered a gem – the 25 year old is having the time of his life, everything he does seems to work out and all he touches seems to turn to gold. Sometimes, its so crazy that one can clearly see that some of the things he attempts are purely gambled but they always work out for one reason or the other. The Kabras man has had a long journey to stardom but ever since he put in the work, bulked up and got fitter, it is only a matter of time until Europe comes calling (hopefully soon).
He was at the forefront of the attack for Uganda against Tunisia, beating defenders at will, breaking the line whenever he felt like, he had a 9 out of 10 kicking statistic on the day, slotting even the most difficult of kicks, he bagged 37 points but could have been more if it wasn’t for his selfless nature where he reached the try area and handed to another player to take the honours (humility and a team player) – deservedly man of the match on the day. The world better watch out for this boy.

Aggression and brutal in the contact area

Ugandans aren’t the biggest of players when it comes to rugby but there is a level of aggression that was exhibited on Saturday by the boys that had the bigger North Africans exhausted and scared to take part in the contach areas after 20 minutes. Notably, James Odongo’s hit on his opposite number, Pius Ogena bulldozing through the Tunisian defence before handing Robert Masendi his first try, no nonsense tackling from Justin Kimono and no one wanted to run into the forwards as they ended up falling back most of the time.

Uganda’s Pius Ogena takes on Tunisia’s Wehrani Issam

Near perfect role execution

The structures were clear to see against Tunisia and it seems like nearly all players are understanding and executing their roles well. The communication could be seen from the stands even without hearing what was actually being said, the big men did their job, the back three were superb in fielding and turning defense to attack while the centres simply tore up the midfield; which in my view was the reason why Tunisia was so poor, whoever was donning a 12 or 13 shirt for them was far from a centre.

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Early nerves

The first 20 minutes showed a bit of tension and cold feet for the Cranes, you could sense the pressure by looking at them as they went about their business. Luckily though, they managed to shrug it off and assumed their element, this is something that should be worked on – coming out of the blocks as fast as possible because more lethal teams wouldn’t let Uganda recover from a shaky start.

Set piece defence

Despite an otherwise all round superb effort, the defence at the scrums was an eye sore – whenever the Tunisians got a scrum within our 22 metre area, all they had to do was move the ball and score with relatve ease. The drift defense in the backs during scrum time had humongous gaps that brougt about the 12 points they scored – smarter teams would have utilised this more, the team needs to check it.

Lineout woes

For all the good things that were done on the day, lineouts weren’t one of them – Paul Ssekate is a very mobile forward, very good with ball in hand and at scrum time barely looses a ball while hooking but his throwing has come under so much scrutiny, it hurts. Saturday was another display of that, having only two successful lineouts in his time on the pitch.

It was such an issue that Captain Asuman resorted to calling for scrums whenever they had a penalty ; not forgetting that substitute hooker, Joseph Tamale wasn’t as good at lineout throws either so the Cranes still have a dilema to sort out in this area.

Slow at the rucks

Sometimes, the boys left their ball carriers isolated in the tackle, we were fortunate that the Tunisians were lazier than we were at the break down but support for ball carriers is a habit that has to be instilled in the players DNA’s knowing that whenever their mates take in the ball, one have to follow awaiting an offload or to secure the ball. We aren’t the biggest players therefore we only thrive with possession not the opposite.

Worrying penalty count

This was rectified in the second half of the game but the first half had a relatively alarming penalty count that the Tunisians failed to take advantage of, this saw us even get a yellow card but we were lucky enough not to pay the price. This was also the case against Kenya that let us down a lot.


Taking nothing away from the boys, the win against Tunisia was immense and I am confident that Morocco will feel the wrath of this rediscovered confidence. See you next Saturday at Kyadondo.

Uganda vs Morocco – 16:00 hours, Ugandan time

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