Uganda’s national women’s team – the Lady Cranes – may not even be ranked outsiders to win the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) 7s in Tunisia today.
Top seeds South Africa will be the top favourites and it will take a miracle for the powerhouse not to win the one-day six-team event in Tunis.
However, with the journey women’s rugby has taken over the past six years, Tunis represents another opportunity for Lady Cranes to take a step forward.
Uganda, Rugby World Cup 7s finalists in 2009, are in pool B alongside the hosts and Zimbabwe whereas South Africa are joined in pool A by Kenya and Senegal.
This is not an alien situation. During the 2013 RWC 7s qualifiers, Lady Cranes beat Zimbabwe 14-5 in the pool stages but lost 17-5 to Tunisia in the semifinals to bow out.
The preparations have not been crisp with speedster Regina Athieno pulling out due to exams at Hana Mixed School. Her place has been taken by Helen Buteme.
The back, a former captain, will add valuable experience to the team having played in Sweden and the English Premiership recently with Thurrock T-Birds. She linked up with the team on Wednesday. “Helen is an important player,” back Charlotte Mudoola said prior to departure for Tunis.
The team travelled north for a four-day acclimatisation that ended on Thursday.
Captain Brenda Kayiyi, voted women’s rugby player by journalists, must be relishing the chance to lead. Coach Anthony Kinene has one simple reminder for them.
“In 7s, you are only king when you have possession so we will strive to use the ball well whenever we get it,” Kinene warned.
LADY CRANES TEAM
PLAYERS: Asha Nakityo, Beatrice Atim, Brenda Kayiyi (captain), Charlotte Mudoola, Claire Anena, Harriet Kayonjo, Helen Buteme, Hellen Gizamba, Matilda Tino, Rachael Kakaire, Rosenberg Kanyunyuzi, Winnie Atyang
OFFICIALS: Anthony Kinene (Head coach), Michael Wandera (Team manager/Assistant coach), Joseph Kalanzi (Team doctor)