Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Gold Cup Starts In Nairobi For the Cranes

As far as the international season is concerned, the lid is already off thanks to the Elgon Cup clash that happened in Kampala on 10th June 2017.

Kenya might have won that leg but there were myriads of positives for the Ugandan contingent to take from the game. It was a thinner margin of loss, than the last time before that: with Kenya winning 93-34 on aggregate.

Fast forward to what matters, owing to last year’s heroics, Uganda gets to play Tier 1A rugby this year too; Rugby Africa Gold Cup. Kenya caps off this cup for our local heroes in a tie which will double as the second leg of the Elgon Cup. Kenya take a five point lead into the defense of this title, having won 23-18 in Kampala. Nonetheless, the Uganda Rugby Cranes are in positive spirits going into this cup tie. The cranes will look to avoid the silly mistakes that might have heavily cost them the rights to Elgon Mountain earlier than they should have been lost. The Cranes had several instances of discipline lapse, witnessing a number of their players serve time in the sinbin. Lest we forget, late settlement in the game. The Cranes conceded early in both halves against Kenya and although they were able to come back and lead 18-10 at the break, they couldn’t breakdown the solid Kenyans in the second half who later won 23-18.

Uganda will travel to Kenya for the first of their two away games, with the second coming a week later in Dakar, against Senegal. Going to Kenya will be especially nostalgic for flyhalf hopeful, Ivan Magomu, who had his first international test against Kenya, almost a year ago in a game where he scored too.

The team has been clouded by darkness in the name of late or no allowance payments and abysmal player welfare which have always brought the sport’s governing body in the nation, Uganda Rugby Union, under the scope. The URU have been on the receiving end of accusations of misappropriating the funds for their own gain which has caused several National Team hopefuls to opt out of the camp. These have accused Assistant Coach, Robert Seguya, of conniving with URU bigwigs in maligning efforts of fair treatment of the players. There were instances during the Kabras expedition when it came to everyone’s notice that players were being underfed but were expected to perform at 100% like a properly oiled machine. Since these incidents, there have been efforts to clear the URU name and we have since seen sponsors lift some of the financial burden off of URU.

Putting the above into consideration, it is safe to say the Cranes have had their own taste of trials and tribulations but still hang in there to wear the black-yellow-red strips for their nation. If the performance against Kenya earlier is anything to go by, Ugandans back home should expect the lads to put up more than a spirited fight while in Kenya this weekend. It is especially possible to claim the mountain on away soil, on Kenyan soil. The team may be without the quick executional mind that is Joseph Aredo’s or the line break prowess that lies with Ijongat James or the power that Wandicho possesses but the trainers believe they have an elite set of lads in the camp ahead of the Kenya and Senegal away ties.

Retirement you said? Michael “Gonya” Wokorach seemed to make all of us forget those rumors when he turned out like he had never left, against Kenya. The debutants did themselves proud, showing more hunger, proving their selections weren’t errors or favors and we will be hoping to see more of Musa, Mulla, Kirabo, Aziku et al. Unfortunately, Ivan Kirabo’s backup from the Kenya game, Aaron Ofoiwroth, will not be making the travelling squad as he has been omitted with the coach reinstating Kevin Makmot in the fold. It goes without saying, MOTM Marvin Odong will be one of the few X-factors in the team that everyone back home will be banking on to hurt Kenya, of course with help from Ivan Magomu, Ivan Kirabo, Phillip Wokorach and maybe, Kimono Justin. The latter had been an absentee from the sport for at least two years no thanks to double knee surgeries, but that did not stop his rehabilitation for he’s raring to go and prove all doubters wrong. He had a short return spell against Kenya in Kampala but we all hope to see more of him ASAP, the Kimono of 2011. It maybe early to be expectant but that isn’t illegal…yet. 

Ivan Magomu looks to have cemented his place in the squad with Chris “Opa” Lubanga further omitted from the travelling squad and unless fortunes changes, he won’t feature for the team against Senegal. Pius Ogena had a rather spooky game against Kenya, less significant than Train station 9.75. With Lubanga omitted from the squad, it is imminent Ivan Magomu will start at flyhalf and the coach will have to tinker with either Pius at inside center again or have Ssewankambo relieve Pius of his duties in the position. The extended squad is enforced with numerous forwards which indicates that we should expect very cautious and reduced running from the lads, and more of contact-play.

      Hima Heathens Halfback and Rugby Cranes debutante, Aaron Ofoiwroth (21) closes down a Kenyan attacker earlier this month in Kampala. (Photo Credit : Rugby Nation Uganda)

Uganda Cranes Squad to travel to Kenya:
Forwards: Asuman Mugerwa, Alex Mubiru, Brian Odong, Robert Aziku, Charles Uhuru, Brian Asaba, Scott Oluoch, Marvin Odong, Cyrus Wathum, Collins Kimbowa, Adnan Mutebi, Byron Oketayot, Musa Muwonge, Santos Ssentongo, Joseph Tamale, Cox Muhigwa, Musajja Ronald.

Backs: Ivan Kirabo, Ivan Magomu, James Odong, Pius Ogena, Michael Wokorach, Lawrence Ssebuliba, Phillip Wokorach, Justin Kimono, Gerald Ssewankambo, Kevin Makmot.