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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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!
Player To Watch: Byron Morgan Oketayot (Gulu Elephants)