- Africa Rugby Sevens. Uganda chase slots at the next year’s World Cup and Commonwealth Games, rivals Kenya have already booked their tickets at both events in the shorter code.
Kampala. Today isn’t the moment to talk about Uganda’s eternal rivalry with Kenya that is illuminated by the annual Elgon Cup – a 15s rugby contest.
The final day of the Africa Rugby Cup Sevens that started yesterday at Legends should remind us of the gap between the two in the game’s shorter code.
While Rugby Cranes must reach the final of the 10-team event that climaxes today, Kenya already have their ticket to the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
South Africa, USA (hosts), England, France, Wales, Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, who reached the quarterfinals of the 2013 edition in Russia, also already earned their spots.
In addition, Canada, Argentina, Scotland and Samoa also qualified through the 2016-17 World Sevens Series.
For Uganda coach, Kenyan-born Tolbert Onyango, winning the Africa Cup in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2016 was ‘a defining moment’ and today is about taking rugby in Uganda onto another level altogether.
“It would mean the world to us, excuse the pun,” he said. “It will lead to positive changes in the administration of the sport and playing structures and will certainly spur the growth of the sport at grassroots level,” Onyango told www.rwcsevens.com this week.
Victory will ensure Rugby Cranes qualify for the 2018 edition in San Francisco and an invitation to compete for the second year running at World Sevens Series legs in Dubai and Cape Town. A defeat in the finals will send Uganda to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier in Hong Kong next April and one of two places at the Commonwealth Games.
Uganda warmed up for the event with a 10th-place finish at last weekend’s Oktoberfest Sevens in Munich, with only Portugal and Chile behind them.
“There will always be pressure on the defending champions. Firstly from ourselves and then the 40 million fans at home, Onyango said. “But pressure is good; it will bring the best out of our players. We’re looking forward to a good event at home.
“This is a tournament of ‘firsts’ for us. This is our first tournament as defending champions, our first international Sevens tournament of any kind at home, and it’s the first time our fans will be able to see us on home soil. Whatever happens will be history in the making.”
But Onyango is fully aware that last year’s results count for nothing. “We have to be better than we were last year. Based on results from various tournaments in Africa, it is clear that other countries have made huge strides since then.
“All the teams will be coming to Kampala looking to pick up one of those two coveted spots for the World Cup. Everyone is a threat.”