International

International Rugby: Your Cranes in San Francisco

Exciting times for sevens rugby in Uganda thanks to Guinness that is the force behind the expanded local series and the group of twelve that will be representing the flag in San Francisco. Much has been said about the match ups prior to the Samoa game, logistics and what not, but here is a simple profile of the boys donning the jerseys.

Michael Okorach (Captain)

One of the longest campaigners and loyal servants currently, not just in the 7s code but in the sport in general and known for his build that puts him among the biggest on the team. His attack is his strongest point as an efficient ball carrier with an offloading component to compliment it. Versatility has kept him on the team this long where he can play among both forwards and backs in 7S.

He shall be making history as the first captain to hold the flag for Uganda at the groundbreaking Rugby 7s world cup. A lot has been spoken about his defense but he is one to look out for as a crucial screw in the Cranes 7s machine if they are to start with a bang. He replaces Eric Kasiita as skipper, after Eric led Uganda to back to back Africa 7s victories but had to go for further studies.

Phillip Wokorach

Uganda’s most popular export at the moment, with vast experience for his fairly young age. He plies his trade with Kenyan money bags Kabras Sugar and is a regular on the Samurai team that tours the world exhibiting top notch rugby wherever they go. Lest we forget, he is also a core on the Cranes’ 15s set up.

His star started shining bright from back in the high school days but hit two tragic halts when he fractured his leg; first while playing for Heathens – after recovering from that, he moved to the UK to better his game and after a series of very impressive displays, he sadly fractured his limb again. Any normal player would have called it quits at the time but not “Ojus” as he is popularly known back at home.

He returned home where he had full rehabilitation, embarking on a path to recovery that has seen him not look back ever since. One of Uganda’s deadliest attackers with ball in hand and a potent kicker too. His only weakness lies in defense where most of his critics have chosen to dwell. Aside from that, this gem of a player will need to be at the thick of things if the Cranes are to unlock doors at the 7s world cup.

 

Pius Ogena

When the name Ogena is mentioned, the first things that come to mind are brutal defender and hard runner. The former Buffaloes now Kabras Sugar player is the guy you would want to be next to you in the midst of an attacking onslaught from any opposition. This 7s team is filled with versatility and he is one of those that fit this category.

The flanker turned center has a wealth of experience, and despite scares of injury in recent games, coach Tolbert Onyango will be more than pleased to have him up and running in Uganda’s quest to become a 7s power.

Aaron Ofoirwoth

The rise of Aaron has been somewhat very quick with many wondering why the young lad is even selected. He has been molded through fire like hot iron having been thrown in the thick of things when the Heathens were in a transitional process, but what doesn’t break you actually makes you better.

His exceptional game landed him a contract with Kenyan side Harlequins and for those that don’t know much about him should see his performance in the recent Kenya vs Uganda Elgon cup encounter – although the cranes lost, he held his own ground with a very mature show. Experience could be the only set back in his profile but then again, mettle tramps experience any day.

Byron Oketayot

The Rhinos backrow has never looked back ever since he was spotted from lowly side Gulu Elephants, featuring for both the 15s and 7s sides. His never extinguished gas tank coupled by his physique and strength justify his selection.

It is no secret that his major role will be to enforce in the 7s team, the coaches will be hoping to exploit his ability to smash through the line and match some of the teams of size and strength. In simple terms, he is to ensure that Uganda is no push over.

James Odongo

Silky, strong for a man his size and calm headed – the Nondescript winger is the typical guy you would want out wide but what sets him apart from the herd is his defence. Never a day is this lad intimidated by players running through his channel big or small.

As with the other mentioned before him, James is a loyal servant of the game featuring for both the 15s and 7s teams. Odong is a fair kicker of the ball and in the absence of Lawrence Ssebuliba, he is one of the better defenders in the squad.

Justin Kimono

The Kobs man makes an unexpected return to the 7s fold probably due to sudden injury from the likes of Ssebuliba Lawrence but his recent performances justify his pick. Greatly attributed with tons of pace and power, the former Namilyango college star isn’t your typical 7s mold but with the pace and power he brings to the table, it was hard for the selectors to look the other way.

Kimono featured for the 7s in the earliest days of national career in 2013 but injuries slowed down his ascension. He has since come back quicker and thicker, earning the vice captaincy nod for the 15s rugby team.

Ivan Magomu

The Pirates captain has hit new gears with his newly found form, just when we thought he had reached a brilliant level, the fly half has added calmness, maturity and consistency to his game.

Having been instrumental to the Pirates double of Uganda cup and league trophies, not forgetting his influence in the Sea robbers’ two 7s circuits triumphs thus far, his exploits landed him the slot ahead of the more experienced Joseph Aredo and James Ijongat.

The Uganda number ten is a high school record holder, being the only player to win the coveted schools rugby league with three schools (Hana Mixed, Namilyango College and SMACK), he brought the Pirates their first trophies in what seemed like eternity and will be hoping to right some more wrongs at the rugby 7s world cup.

Timothy Kisiga

The mercurial full back is a perfect example of the system at Black Pirates that prides in bringing young talents and setting them up with the stamina to be able to rub shoulders with the biggest of dogs. Timothy was an instrumental figure in Pirates running through almost all their opponents on their way to winning their first ever league trophy.

Timothy’s biggest strong suits are in attack, game reading and setting up those around him to go on the attack. His trademark move is the short and light defense splitting grabber kick.

Desire Ayera

He is the third Pirates player in the squad and this is a huge statement from the club, as they have the highest number of players in the team. Desire is the youngest player on the team but that has got nothing on his game.

In the absence of kingpin Marvin Odong for Pirates for the most of last season, little known 19 year old Ayera stepped and made the crowds forget about the captain. Desire burst onto the 7s scene in the Africa 7s in 2017 hosted in Kampala and has since repaid Coach Tolbert’s faith, hence keeping him in the team. Desire is the only player on the team, alongside fellow Pirate Timothy Kisiga, to feature for only the 7s and not for the 15s team. It is only a matter of time though.

In the absence of Eric Kasiita, Desire has his work cut off for him to enforce the forwards of the 7s. He is another amazing ball carrier, who misses not many tackles.

Okia Solomon

Solomon burst onto the rugby scene through the Kyambogo University set up, going on to feature for the Kyadondo based Toyota Buffaloes. He has gotten some of the quickest pair of heels on the squad too.

Solomon is as good an attacker as he is a defender. He has featured for the national team as a 15s player as much as most of his teammates to San Francisco. His amazing work caught the eye of Kenyan giants Harlequins who snapped him up and tied him to a lengthy contract.

Adrian Kasiito

It is the quick feet and steamboat engine of Adrian Kasiito that got Uganda beyond the white line and bag the win over Zimbabwe in the Africa 7s held in Uganda in 2017.

The mercurial Betway Kobs utility back made his 15s national debut earlier this year to join the long list of the game’s servants who have featured in 15s and 7s rugby.

On top of his afterburners on the attack, Kasiito is a very good defender given that many would overlook the runner because of his size. He is one the many fresh faces on the local scene that have earned the adoration of the fans.

In a nutshell, we are behind the boys and are truly proud of all their endeavors. Shocking omissions of players such as Joseph Aredo would raise eyebrows but  there are only 12 slots and someone had to miss out. Regardless of the back room choices – Go Uganda, Go Rugby Cranes.

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