KAMPALA. The national Rugby Sevens side is on everyone’s lips at the moment.
They just qualified for the World Cup and won the Africa Cup for the second year running. But all the stars concur that without coach Tolbert Onyango’s efforts, it would have never been the story.
Onyango had been working with the Sevens side quietly but fully took charge in 2013 with the Glasgow Commonwealth Games a year away. Only Michael Wokorach, James Ijongat, Phillip Wokorach, Lawrence Sebuliba and captain Eric Kasiita are survivors from Onyango’s first major tournament as coach.
“He is like a father to all of us,” the most senior member of Onyango’s World Cup-bound side, Michael told Daily Monitor.
“There are times he chipped in with his own money when things were not going well in camp,” added the Hima Cement Heathens captain.
Kasiita thinks the side could not have asked for a better coach. “He creates a mutual understanding which creates a family-like kind of environment. It makes the side feel like one big family,” says the ring leader. For Adrian Kasiito, the man whose last gasp try against Zimbabwe on Saturday at Legends RFC ensured Uganda remain Africa Cup champions for yet another year, Onyango also helps build character within individuals.
“He knows how to get the best out of everyone. My game has massively improved since I started working under him last year,” said the Betway Kobs back.
When three of his players went missing in Germany prior to the Africa Cup last week, he simply said there’s nothing he could do about it but work with what he had. “I can only deal with things I can control,” he told Daily Monitor last week.
That paints a picture of a tolerant, calm and a man willing to work even when odds are against him. A source close to the side confirmed that after last year’s Africa Cup success, players received Shs20,000 only from URU forcing Onyango to dig deep in pockets to put a smile on his players. James Ijongat will tell you that when he was going through a tough spell with a bad knee, Onyango kept tabs on him while Timothy Kisiga reminisces how Onyango made him feel part of the side within days of his inclusion.
Onyango encompasses all attributes of a coach. Although some might not agree with him, they will admit he has done a good enough job since he took over in 2013. And the results tell it all.
PREVIOUS WINNERS - AFRICA 7s CUP
2000: Zimbabwe, 2004: Kenya, 2008: Kenya, 2012: Zimbabwe, 2013: Kenya, 2014: South Africa, 2015: Kenya, 2016: Uganda