Rugby Sevens: Uganda clinch African title but ‘biggest challenges ahead’

Uganda have qualified for both the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby Sevens World Cup

Uganda clinched the Africa Men’s Rugby Sevens title on home soil on Sunday and with it earned a place at both this year’s Commonwealth Games and the World Cup Sevens.

Beaten finalists in Zimbabwe also ensured they will also play at both tournaments, while third-place Kenya qualified for the September’s World Cup in South Africa.

South Africa, who did not feature at the 14-team tournament in Kampala, and Kenya had already sealed places at the July’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham thanks to their global rankings.

Uganda beat Zimbabwe 28-0 in the final, but coach Tolbert Onyango admits the East Africans face much bigger challenges ahead if they are to make an impact at either of those tournaments.

“Therein lies the challenge – we need to be playing a lot more in tournaments like these, which have high intensity,” the former Kenya international told BBC Sport Africa.

“But between this weekend and the Commonwealth Games, I don’t see any hope of us taking part in a prep tournament, so it’s going to be a big challenge.

“We’ll continue training locally and probably having one or two camps, which we hope is going to keep us fit and ready for those tournaments. But ideally we would like one or two prep tournaments if we are to perform well.”

Simply getting the squad together is not easy, with the players only available to train outside of their normal working lives.

“It’s the nature of sport down in this part of the world – guys have to go off and get their daily bread and then spare a couple of hours for rugby,” Onyango explained.

“We are working hard, talking to governments and a couple of the sponsor to ensure that we can get ourselves a week or so [before the Commonwealth Games] to get ourselves into camp so that we can get the boys truly focused. “

Uganda look to emulate ‘big brothers’ Kenya

Uganda's Munyani Ian tries to stop a player while carrying the ball against Zimbabwe
Uganda will play at the Rugby World Cup Sevens for the second time, having made their debut at the 2018 tournament in the USA

Uganda conceded just 19 points in their six games at the tournament and managed a 71-0 thrashing of Burundi and a 50-0 win over Burkina Faso en route to the semi-finals.

In the last four they beat neighbors Kenya, who are ranked 10th in the world and are among the core teams on the World Sevens Series.

Kenya’s ability to compete regularly on the global stage is something that Onyango is keen to emulate.

“Kenya are our big brothers in the region. Beating them is one of those things that gives us bragging rights – at least until we play them again,” he added.

“We want to emulate them, we want to get to the World Series and we know it’s going to take a lot from the boys, not just physically but also in financial terms.

“Getting the union to get us to a suitable environment where we can be able to perform to those standard.

“We want to emulate them, we want to be like them and then better than them. But it’s gonna take a lot of effort from everyone around.”

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