Last year was, make no mistake, a humbling one for Ugandan sevens rugby. What with the second-half implosion that precipitated the meek surrender of the African title at the hands of Zimbabwe!
Elsewhere, the hiding received from perennial nemesis Germany at the quarterfinal stage of the World Series Qualifier was hardly surprising but nonetheless troubling.
The common denominator from those chastening experiences was that Ugandan players were neither mentally braced nor tooled up physically for the task at hand.
The lack in physical clout is something that Geoffrey Kimani will look to address in a decisive way.
This as the Rugby Cranes ramp up preparations for this year’s World Series Qualifier due April in Hong Kong. The Kenyan’s mastery of the subtleties of strength and conditioning is of great renown and should make Uganda strong.
Uganda Sevens head coach Tolbert Onyango nevertheless knows that being shorn of the services of several key players reduces his outfit to a bare-bones.
Last year, Uganda sorely missed Lawrence Ssebuliba’s match-winning skills as well as the nous of James Odong. The two will remain unavailable as they continue recuperating from injuries.
Joining them on the fringes are Pius Ogena (ankle) and Solomon Okia (knee). Ogena’s rumbustious ball-carrying skills and Okia’s pace to burn have come to typify the bulk of all the good things about the Uganda Sevens.
Sadly, that isn’t the only migraine for Onyango to grapple with. Heavy-duty contests are to be expected even in the shorter variant of the game.
The palpable absence of size in the middle means that Uganda will face a serious examination at the breakdown and in the air during restarts.
But if Phillip Wokorach gets clean ball, expect something devastating — even spellbinding — in open play. How often will this be though? That dear reader remains the million dollar question.