Friday, 12 August 2016

Lessons From 2016 International Season

The Uganda Rugby Cranes have had an international season with mixed fortunes; which have given us many lessons to pick and on another front, hunger for more international action.

What was there to catch on though?

1. Coach Duncan needs to deepen the fangs.

He wasn't available during the first game of the international season and it's not a joy to talk about how the noisy neighbors, Kenya, trampled all over Uganda in the latter's own backyard; the same day Captain Fantastic, Michael Wokorach walked out for his 30th International cap. That game in analysis, with respect to the rest of the other three games (Rugby Tier 1A 2016 fixtures) left a lot to be desired and drawing an overall wash of long faces on the fans that thronged Legends Rugby Club. The first Elgon Cup clash was a broad show of ineptitude and laxity from the rugby cranes, contrary to the resurgence & ferocity the boys terrorized the Tier 1A games with.

            The Uganda Rugby Cranes celebrate a recent victory : Source - The Observer

Coach Duncan spent not so much time with the squad but with the South Africa trip and return of a few names into the squad, he looked to be tactfully ticking. If he could involve himself more in the rugby calendar and be able to do some bit of the talent sight seeing and scouting by himself, this could get the boys a lot more motivated to put all they have on the line to impress the coach with the hope of making the cut for an international feature. In this way, he would select the squad he believes will deliver best for Uganda rather than let Seguya do the tinkering.

        A not so impressed technical bench. L-R: Coach Duncan, Robert Seguya, Anthony Kinene

2. The attack is sparkling. The defence is wobbly. 

In the four games the Cranes played within June & July, a total of 160 points were shipped into the wrong end of the scoreboard as regards the Cranes. The Kenya Simbas were responsible for 93 of the 160 points, scoring 48 in Kampala & 45 at Ngong Road. Namibia put 40 past the Cranes while Zimbabwe managed the least, scoring 27 in Bulawayo. Kenya made a meal of the Cranes and penalized every error the Cranes made on June 4th at Legends handing the half back combination of Lubanga and Makmot their worst combined effort display by far, leaving fullback & then debutant, Phillip Wokorach hapless most of the time and handed the Kenyans their biggest ever win in Kampala. Not a pretty stat! When Marvin Odong returned against Namibia, there was a wide sweep of defence reinforcement but the wise Welwitschias opted for the to go wide occasionally catching wingers Ssebuliba and Odong napping. Catch them napping is exactly what Mukidza did to punish Uganda in both games he faces us.

The Sables game deserves not any critique but that's not how life goes; is it?  We gifted Zimbabwe with easy tries in a game we hoped to sweep easily. Rugby Tier 1A status was all but confirmed but all is never done with Kenya, no love lost. A solid first half was ruined with a toothless second half display. Nonetheless, there was some exceptional defending from Brian Odong, Marvin Odong, Pius Ogena, Byron Oketayot.

                  James and Marvin Odong surge forward against Namibia

On the attack though, Uganda was looking to get the job done. The home Elgon Cup game wasn't good in any way but it was a learning lesson. The Cranes went on to earn two consecutive bonus points from as many games, in the win away in Southern Africa and the not so embarrassing loss to Namibia at Kyadondo. The attack was firing on all cylinders and grounding five times in each of the two games and just one less (4) against Kenya in the last international fixture of the rugby calendar. Notable attackers: Asuman Mugerwa, Phillip Wokorach, Joseph Aredo, Sewankambo Gerald.

3. Fielding fairy-tales

We had this problem stretching back to the first Elgon Cup clash. Kevin Makmot kicked in once, went on to miss the next kicks and was immediately relieved of goalkicking duties to be replaced by then debutant, Phillip Wokorach. His goalkicking success percentage was not as good either but we were already short of options then. That time, the only options were; Joseph Aredo, who was nursing a concussion, Ijongat who was sidelined with a twisted knee and Ivan Magomu out as well. Phillip was the best amongst him, Kevin & Chris.

                Ivan Magomu goes horizontal for a try

Chris Lubanga exhibited poor fielding at the start and slower reaction prompting many to call for his replacement but Uganda was short on those, bullied by Kenyans and Namibians. What was there to expect of him anyway given his forgettable season with the Hima Cement Heathens? Kofi Olomide would have been a better choice, apparently. Aredo returned to national team colors as a sub against Namibia and showed just what a quick pair of feet and mind had been missing in the entire time when he ran diagonally to leave Namibian defenders for dead and ground for a try. And what a combination Phillip Wokorach & Joseph Aredo make! Whoever replaced Lubanga suddenly did better. The same story went for Ivan Magomu. He returned from injury but wasn't risked against Zimbabwe only to start against Kenya and open the account for the visiting Cranes with a try. Very quick, agile and a definite playmaker: just what is expected of a first five-eighth.

4. Phillip Wokorach is serving dinner. Sit tight and eat.
Phillip Wokorach has been a brilliant spectacle to watch from his days in Hana Mixed School where he won them the school league in 2011 after defeating powerhouse Namilyango College. Since then he has risen through the ranks and kept his cool from the Toyota Buffaloes to the Hima Cement Heathens and now the black-yellow-red strips of Uganda. It looked like the international stage would swallow him after an abysmal show against Kenya in June when the visiting Simbas gave him a baptism of fire on his debut. The 22 year old returned against Namibia a different beast, hot stepper, high and deft kicker and managed to score two tries in that game. He was a huge part of Uganda securing the win in Zimbabwe that all but confirmed Tier 1A residence for Uganda. He went to execute " personal" revenge against the Kenyan Simbas in Nairobi leaving the noisy neighbors chasing shadows after a jaw dropping performance that won him the MOTM award and massive respect from the Kenyans. He scored two tries in Nairobi bringing his tally to five tries in just four games, actually three considering he didn't score one against Kenya in Kampala.
There is only one story to write home about on Phillip Wokorach. When he is playing, sit back and watch him beat defenders at ease. Just enjoy the show!

      The hottest rugby property in Uganda : Phillip Wokorach  : Source - Kenya Rugby Union

Player To Watch: Byron Morgan Oketayot (Gulu Elephants)