This weekend, in a first of its kind, the Rugby 7s Cranes will be set to rub shoulders with the World’s finest as they take part in their first ever Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco.
Uganda, seeded 20 of 24 in San Francisco, made the World Cup ranks after beating Zimbabwe 10-5 in the 2017 finale of Africa Rugby 7s, going forth to defend the 7s crown earlier won in 2016 in Nairobi. All this was under the tutelage of Coach Tolbert Onyango and his skipper Eric Kasiita.
“Winning it in 2016 meant that we were the team to beat in 2017 and you can see that Zimbabwe gave us a good run in that final last year. It goes ahead to tell you the levels of growth of the game on the content,” said Coach Onyango to Akatimba Sports.
On the absence of his loyal skipper, coach Onyango commented “First of all, we’re very grateful for Eric’s services to the team and it is unfortunate that he had to leave us when things were stating to turn the corner for the team. He has left an opening for the next group of lads and in his place we shall have the likes of Oketayot and Desire will be stepping up. With the likes of 20 year old Desire around, it shows we have openings ad foundations set for younger talent.”
Uganda is no stranger to the international games as the cranes have featured for two consecutive years in Dubai, Capetown and Hong Kong. Earlier this year, the Cranes took part in the Common wealth games as well, just a week after being part of the Hong Kong Sevens.
The Cranes will be without defensive enforcer and ruthless attacking poerhouse that is Lawrence Ssebuliba who is out with a broken arm, an injury attained while on 15s duty in Namibia in June. This has opened doors for the likes of 15s co-captain Justin Kimono Ssimwende who has been included in the World Cup squad. Kimono make an unforeseen return into international 7s action having made his debut in 2013 before injuries rocked his career.
“There are things we have been looking for in players and after Justin joined the camp, he has met most of the credentials. He is a long serving member of the game and it is not a surprise he is considered. He was with us in the camp in South Africa and has played in local circuits, alongside 15s games where he is now captain and I believe it is an educated option to have him in,” itirated Coach Onyango.
In his last words to Akatimba, Coach Onyango assured us and said, “To the fans and all those who will meet us there, the boys need your support and it is their first ever world cup opportunity. They have met with some of the guys before, and they are ready to give their best in San Francisco.”
Uganda open their world cup account against Samoa on Saturday morning (12:29am – East African Time) in the preliminary round, the winner of which will go on to face HSBC series regulars, England in the round of 16, while the loser of the preliminary round will be relegated to the bowl championship.