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Rugby Cranes keep Olympic dream alive

Michael Wokorach (with the ball) is tackled by Namibia players during the Africa Sevens Cup

Michael Wokorach (with the ball) is tackled by Namibia players during the Africa Sevens Cup

By winning silver at the Africa Sevens Cup in South Africa on Saturday November 9, the Rugby Cranes kept alive their chances of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Yet, it would have been better, had they not lost to Kenya in the final, 0-24. The Kenyans are now celebrating an Olympics berth. For that matter, the Rugby Cranes now turn their focus on the global qualifier, known as the ‘repêchage’, set for June 2020, well aware of the work they must put in, if they are to realize the Olympics dream.

Coach Tolbert Onyango told The Observer: “In the whole tournament, we only lost to Kenya. Once in the preliminary rounds 7-24, before we could not score in the final. And definitely, it was clear why they were better than us. Their physicality and general application showed how much experience they had over us.”

Uganda has seven months to prepare for the repêchage, where nations like Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Ireland, France and Samoa, among others, will be battling for two Olympics slots. Yet,  Onyango said the team needs a lot of training to improve the team.

“We have to bulk up the players by doing ample gym work, so that their strength grows. Their nutrition has to be boosted too. We also need a strength and conditioning coach,” he said.

He added that the team needs more warm-up games. In fact, he suggested, that they are talking to the Kenya Rugby Union about the possibility of their team facing Uganda in test games, before the repêchage. Pius Ogena, a player on the Rugby Cranes, added that it will be difficult for Uganda to raise its game unless it plays against more established opponents.

“From facing Kenya twice, you could see how professional and tactically aware they are in handling the ball and moving it. We were not at their level,” Ogena said. Before the Africa Sevens Cup, Kenya had played over 12 high-level rugby tournaments. But before the Safari Sevens in Nairobi in October, Uganda had last played at the Hong Kong Series qualifiers in April.

jovi@observer.ug

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