On Saturday, as the referee blew the final whistle at the Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani Kenya, the Rugby Cranes could hardly believe it yet hardly hold back their joy. Amidst the sublime ululations having won away from home, the team led by Eric Kasiita had just bagged the Africa 7s Cup with an impressive 38-19 win over continental giants Namibia.
The win also gave the Cranes extra benefit along the trophy, as they qualified for the World Series repechage tournaments in the Dubai and Cape Town next year. The two day tournament provided the rugby cranes with fresh lessons, while also re-echoing constantly asked questions about rugby in Uganda.
The repechage entry in a tournament is one where teams that missed qualification by a small margin are allowed to participate. Uganda will hence participate in only two circuits, in Dubai and Cape Town.
The triumph in Kenya showed the importance of quality team selection. Many times, fans have complained that the team is not selected on output and ability, but rather pedigree. The team did not feature perennial members like Asuman Mugerwa and Michael Wokorach. Instead, younger blood like Adrian Kasiita and Al Hadji Manano were fielded, and they proved that it was the team we had for so long awaited.
It also showed the prowess the team harnesses in 7s rugby. The last continental glory for Ugandan rugby came from the 2007 CAR Cup, played in 15s. Since then, 15s have slowly ebbed down while the 7s continue to clamour up. Unfortunately, they are poorly funded and rely on donations and handouts from the public to foot travel and maintenance bills.
The win is a call to action for all stakeholders. To pursue a well-developed, mature and talented 7s side and to give it all the necessary financial and material support, since clearly they have the power to impress.
The Cranes beat Namibia courtesy of James Odong and Lawrence Sebuliba braces and a fifth try from Phillip Wokorach who also sent in a number of conversions. They will feature in the Dubai 7s, in Pool D alongside South Africa, USA and Scotland.