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Uganda aim to become core sevens nation by 2019

‘Cranes’ coach Onyango buoyed by improving results year-on-year in Dubai

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News
Kevin Kermundu of Uganda and Kevin Akuabu of Russia tussle for the ball during the match yesterday.
Gulf News

Dubai: Invitees Uganda vow to be back in Dubai next year and a World Series core nation by 2019, according to coach Tolbert Onyango.

‘The Cranes’ have qualified for Dubai for the past two years running by winning the Africa Cup, last year by beating Namibia and this year by overturning Zimbabwe.

Winning that competition not only made them eligible for next year’s World Cup and Commonwealth Games, but also the Hong Kong Sevens World Series Qualifier, which if they win, will see them promoted as a series core nation.

In this year’s qualifier in Hong Kong — won by Spain — Uganda could only make the quarter-finals but Onyango, who is buoyed by having seen his side’s performances in Dubai improve, believes they can threaten in next year’s qualifier.

“We’re scoring more than last year,” he told Gulf News, after admirable Pool stage defeats to South Africa 19-10, Canada 22-17 and Kenya 29-14 in Dubai.

In last year’s Dubai group stage they had conceded 110 and scored just 21 in a Pool against South Africa, Scotland and the USA, whereas this year they conceded 70 and scored 41.

Against Dubai and World Series defending champions South Africa in particular, who they have played in Dubai two years running, the improvement has been startling. They lost 46-0 last year, but narrowed the gap to just nine points this year.

“We’re not looking at results, but we are looking to reduce our error-rate from last year, and so far so good. When you look at the statistics it’s something very positive. So, we’ve promised ourselves to be back in Dubai next year after winning the African Cup again, and then maybe we can start winning games here in Dubai.

“We’re probably two years away, and half a million dollars (Dh1.8 million) away from becoming a core nation, which is money we don’t have.

“Every Union has its challenges and ours is financial,” he said of his side, which is mainly made up of students, who aren’t paid to play, and only got to Dubai thanks to World Rugby funding, plus a US$1,000 (Dh3,600) allowance from the Ugandan government.

“With that in mind their performances are even more commendable,” he added. “The skill and raw talent is certainly there, it’s just a matter of getting people organised and that takes money.

“But we have a young squad and provided they don’t get injured they can stay together for the next 10 years, and with all these experiences they will be ready.

“Becoming core is the journey we need to embark on and probably in two years, we’ll get there.”

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