Onyango: This is just the beginning

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Oct 13, 2017

Qualification for next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, California is just the beginning of the hard work ahead.

Tolbert Onyango who steered Uganda Cranes to the RWC for the first time said qualification was the easy part. "Qualification means our work has just began. Qualification was the easy part," Onyango told SNA.

The Uganda Cranes did not have a long time to wait before being invited to Dubai at the start of the 2017/18 World Rugby Sevens World Series where they are in the same pool with two other African countries - South Africa and Kenya.

Uganda will be following a familiar path after playing at the same tournament last year. The only difference is that their pool is an 'African Derby'.

During the qualifiers, Onyango identified the final against Zimbabwe as their toughest match. "Zimbabwe game in the final was obviously the toughest game. They shut us down in all areas."

Before the qualifiers. the coach admitted that there was some amount of pressure to qualify as hosts.  "Our plan was simple. Win one game at a time as we head towards our overall game."

From a pool of 20 players, the coach hopes to include more younger players for continuity before the squad for the RWC qualifiers is named.

Like any developing country, the biggest hurdle for Uganda is competing against some of the top countries because in Africa there are no competitions.

Safari Sevens cancelled

This year, Safari Sevens has been cancelled which means Kenya and Uganda will have to look for alternatives.

The inclusion of rugby in the next two Olympics after the shorter version of the game returned to the Olympics has created a lot of interest in many countries which do not have the capacity of sustaining 15's rugby.

"Certainly, Africa needs more sports. There's quite a bit of talent here that needs to be showcased at the top level. More participation at the top level sets the pace for more growth of the sport at the grassroots." the coach states. 

The euphoria Uganda's qualification has created among the rugby fraternity is huge. Two years ago, Uganda were seventh in the Africa Cup. Last year they beat Kenya.

"To do it back to back is a testimony to how far we've come as a country. We've broken a mental barrier and now it's time to step up and compete with the big boys," Onyango explains.

A try by Adrian Kasito after the hooter against Zimbabwe in the final sparked celebrations which made it impossible to take the conversion. "Fans were ecstatic since we won after the hooter had gone. Just magnificent."

Planning for two years

The feat is just sinking in the heads of the players and the Rugby Union. "We've been planning this for the last two years and now on to the next steps," Onyango adds.

But the men's team are following in the footsteps of the women's team who made history by playing at the World Rugby Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009 in Dubai.

Uganda will join two other African automatic qualifiers Kenya and South Africa in San Francisco.

Four African teams will be at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia next year. Zimbabwe who finished second missed the ticket to Australia because they are not members of the Commonwealth.

Instead, Zambia who finished fourth will travel to Gold Coast. 

Uganda squad: Pius Ogena, Eric Kasiita, James Odongo, Adrian Kasito, Philip Wokorach, Michael Okorach, Lawrence Ssebuliba, Kevin Keremundu, James Jongat, Solomon Okia, Byron Oketayot, Joseph Oredo. 

Africa Cup Sevens 

Day two results

Cup quarter finals 

M 21: [1] Uganda 33  [8] Botswana 0.

M 22: [2 ] Madagascar 33 v [7]  Morocco 15.

M 23: [3]  Zimbabwe 17 [6] Tunisia 12.

M 24: [4]  Zambia 33 [5] Senegal 21.

M 25 - Ranking 9/10: [9] Ghana 7 [10] Mauritius 12.

M 26 5-8 semis: [Loser M21] Botswana 12 [Loser M24] Senegal 27. 

M27: [Loser M23] Tunisia 14 [Loser M22] Morocco 10. 

Cup semi finals

M28: [Winner M21] Uganda 38 [Winner M24] Zambia 12.

M29: [Winner M23] Zimbabwe 21 [Winner M22] Madagascar 12.

M30, Ranking 9/10 second match: [9] Ghana 26 [10] Mauritius 0. 

M31 7/8 playoff: [Loser M26] Botswana 0 [Loser M 27] Morocco 10. 

M32, 5/6 playoff: [Winner M26] Senegal 12 [Winner M27] Tunisia 35.

M 33 3/4 playoff: Loser M28] Zambia 7 [Loser M29] Madagascar 26. 

M 34, Cup final: [Winner M28] Uganda 10 [Winner M29] Zimbabwe 7.  

Ranking: 1. Uganda, 2. Zimbabwe, 3. Madagascar, 4. Zambia, 5. Tunisia, 6. Senegal, 7. Morocco, 8. Botswana, 9. Ghana, 10. Mauritius.  

Day one results 

Pool A: Uganda, Tunisia, Morocco, Zambia, Ghana; Ghana 19 Tunisia 19, Zambia 24 Morocco 19,  Uganda 36 Ghana 0, Tunisia 14 Zambia 21, Zambia 0 Uganda 35, Morocco 14 Tunisia 19, Uganda 42 Morocco 10, Zambia 12 Ghana 5, Tunisia 19 Uganda 33, Morocco 26 Ghana 10.

Pool B: Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Botswana, Mauritius;  Mauritius 7 Zimbabwe 21, Botswana 12 Senegal 24, Madagascar 40 Mauritius 10, Zimbabwe 21 Botswana 7,  Botswana 7 Madagascar 24, Senegal 5 Zimbabwe 17, Madagascar 26 Senegal 0, Botswana 14 Mauritius 14, Zimbabwe 12 Madagascar 19, Senegal 24 Mauritius 7.