InternationalNational 15s

Africa Gold Cup: The Thumbs Up and Thumbs down of Uganda’s encounter with Morocco

As stated in the Let’s Talk rugby podcast last Thursday, the panelists all concurred that Morocco would offer a much more stern test to the Rugby Cranes than what was put up by the hapless Tunisians. Little did we know that the test would come in such fashion for the home side.

Uganda controlled the first half but were nearly blown off their own porch if it weren’t for return of focus fueled by reinforcements from the bench and the boot of the mercurial Phillip Wokorach that kept Uganda’s end of the score board tallying.

Unfortunately, the bonus point eluded us but much remains to play for with one last swing this weekend as the Rugby Cranes face familiar foes in the guise of Zimbabwe. The Sables have had a topsy turvy campaign showing sparks of brilliance before undoing all their great work with some lackluster displays, however they remain a very big threat to our quest for a third win this year and should not be taken lightly if Morocco’s efforts are anything to go by.
Here is what the Cranes need to polish up on, and maintain if we are to bury the Sables come Saturday the 18th August 2018;

POLISH UP

Lineout
The Cranes had a slight improvement with the lineout against Morocco but it remains something the team goes for as if attempting the lottery. The most efficient teams ensure that their ball remains theirs and then try to steal the oppositions as well whenever the opportunity presents itself. One might wonder why i am so hard on the lineout issue; this is simply because we aspire to rub shoulders with the top dogs and we shan’t be making comparisons with those at a mediocre level therefore the need to fully polish the thrower – jumper coordination to avoid blunders such as the shambolic over head scene of Ssekate gifting Morocco with possession and a resulting try.

Photo : Erika Nyakato

Maul defense
The Moroccans were a cunning bunch that utilized their size advantage superbly, whenever they kicked for touch and regained the ball in the lineout, it was so predictable that they were going to maul because they realized we could not match them in that department. Something they used to gain a lot of territory that hurt the team in the second half – John Duncan and Robert Sseguya need to find a solution for our fairly smaller forwards to counter such situations because this could hurt us in the future when it counts for more.
Strategic play

I am all for the plan of always having possession as a way of dictating the tempo of the game and an indirect way of defending (the opponent can’t score without the ball) but we need to understand that possession of the ball in certain areas can be quite regrettable if all goes wrong.

The rugby field is divided into four portions of play often described as zones that are necessary in decision making; the defensive red zone , the two green zones and the offensive red zone. In our defensive red zone (22 metre area we protect), it is essential to find territory through the relevant kicks as the first option of safety despite the occasional testing of the defence.

However, too much dwelling in this area is very risky and can lead to turn overs and concession of penalties that can easily turn into points against the Cranes – Basics first.

Don’t get me wrong, i am not advocating for a barrage of aimless kicking of the ball but we need to impart the art of clever territory seeking that is definitive and contestable to ensure the chasers are able to compete to regain possession or for the jumpers to have a shot at stealing the other teams throws then resume with the possession game.

Defensive woes
After all the praise from the defensive displays against Tunisia, Morocco turned up the heat and the team leaked. Two things come to mind; first of all – strategize on proper communication, an effective defensive press and utilising the bigger boys to do a lot of the brute work, secondly defence in possession – this is something we have started to implement. Keep the ball most of the time, the opposition can’t play if they don’t have the ball.

MAINTAIN THESE

Possession game
One thing we have done well ever since the Gold cup campaign resumed is keeping possession and shining while doing so. Uganda has thrived with ball in hand, from the enforcing led by Captain Asuman Mugerwa to the dexterous distribution of Ivan and Aaron all the way to the silky fast feet of the outside backs highlighted by Phillip Wokorach and Solomon Okia. More of the same with less ball handling errors and Zimbabwe won’t know what hit them or where to seek refuge.

Endurance
There is something so tiring about having to play rugby without the ball – minutes of defensives duty can feel like hours, very tiring both mentally and physically.
Another impressive trait from the Cranes against Morocco was their ability to turn up a gear when they would be expected to falter with fatigue. The scrummaging went up another level and brought tears of joy to many faithfuls to see the smaller Cranes’ forwards push the exhausted Moroccans on several occasions – Kudos.

Mental strength
It was a very impressive sight when the Cranes where able to pick themselves up from a position of being under relentless pressure from the visitors that had closed the gap to 6 points, to rise above it and seal the win instead of cracking and succumbing to the pressure. This was a great statement to the mental growth of the group that has endured some torrid times but are now reaping from the fire they went through.

Impact off the bench
Whatever John Duncan and Robert Seguya are telling the substitutes is surely something we need to find out; against Tunisia, Okia came out in road runner mode and yet again, Okia and the largely criticized Ronald Musajja were on their worst behaviour. The impact they brought was integral in transforming the Cranes from their submissive second half showing. This is what the bench is required to do, add more fuel to the fire and not just make up numbers. Thumbs Up!!!

Utilizing our secret weapons
Every team has its secret stash that it uses to the best of their abilities to swing the pendulum in the team’s direction. In Uganda’s case, we have seen what Phillip Wokorach, Ivan Magomu and the likes of Solomon Okia can do with ball in hand. What is the play ? – get the ball to them more often – as simple as that.

Uganda vs Zimbabwe – 15:00 hours Ugandan time – Kyadondo Rugby club

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