RUGBY- At exactly 8.15 am yesterday, the Uganda Lady Cranes touched down at Entebbe International Airport from Harare, Zimbabwe, where they finished fourth at the Rugby Afrique 7s tournament.

Clad in snow-white team shirts and medals hanging across their chests, not even the dark clouds on the morning dampened their moods.

That was telling enough of a team that entered the two-day tournament in seventh position, only to finish behind continental heavyweights South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Whereas the preparations for the continental showpiece were below-par, coach Helen Koyokoyo Buteme’s girls left a lasting mark at the tournament.

“I could not be more proud of them. They have brought back Uganda into the top four despite being the smallest (weight and height wise), the youngest (half are under 21 with the youngest being 18 years old) and the least experienced (five debutants),” said Buteme, a former Lady Cranes captain. 

“They played hard and made people take notice. We converted people from referring to us as ‘those Ugandan kids/babies’, to ‘those Ugandan kids/babies who play good rugby’” she added.

Task ahead

But Buteme knows that there is need to do more. “We need to keep exposing these young girls to many tournaments to build them up for bigger championships. We shouldn’t just go back to bed. Hard work should begin now,” says Buteme. 

It remains to be seen if rugby authorities will heed the call, especially going by the shoddy preparations that the team underwent during their preparations for the trip to Harare. The team’s basic needs, including transport (to and from the airport) and accommodation was footed by individual rugby enthusiasts after a Facebook fundraising campaign.

skanyike@ug.nationmedia.com