They may not quite be teetering on the brink, but the Lady Cranes’ no frills performance in last Saturday’s CAR Women 7s has left many heavy on questions and light on answers.
After qualifying for the Rugby World Cup 7s as recent as 2009, the Lady Cranes - as Uganda women’s national rugby team is known - were expected to rule the roost.
Yet after coming a cropper in the Kenyan township of Machakos, the Lady Cranes have well and truly come home to roost. They are, some would say, a feather duster!
The tumble has been no fault of the Lady Cranes players, really. If anything, they have showed such dizzying exuberance in the face of adversity.
For instance, while the men’s national 15s rugby team-Rugby Cranes-continue to enjoy a sumptuously rich buffet after their training sessions, Lady Cranes players would merely get a pat on the back after burning calories in preparation for the CAR 7s.
The begging bowl was pulled out on a number of occasions as Lady Cranes players tried to keep their head above water.
Watching the footage of the team in Machakos, where marginal losses to Zimbabwe and Tunisia relegated the Lady Cranes to the less glamourous Bowl event, you got the sense that players were in torment.
The neglect and abandonment that was almost tangible in the buildup to the tournament had had its toll! What then did we expect? For apathy to cannibalise success? Really?
Placing fifth out of eight countries deserves nothing but scorn. Except that in this case it should be anyone but Lady Cranes players to bury their heads in shame.
Lady Cranes players can only bury their heads in anguish. They could only do as much from the poisoned chalice relevant authorities handed them. As the team’s captain, Helen Buteme, succinctly told me, “you reap what you sow”.
Buteme might keep sounding like a scratched record whenever she trumpets the snub that female sporting figures get here in Uganda, but truth be told little - if any - is being done to reverse the tide. This has effectively appended an ugly addendum to what was shaping into a feel-good story - for rugby at least.
There are quite a number of ugly truths that the bungled CAR 7s exposed.
Strength and conditioning programmes are, for one, needed to give our Lady Cranes the lasting power needed to excel at the top level. They are also one or two other facets about the players’ skill set that need to be polished.
Most of the soul searching, though, has to be done by the other stakeholders - the government and, to some extent, Uganda Rugby Union.
The Lady Cranes look set to get a second bite at the cherry in the shape of a wildcard at next year’s CAR 7s.
At least that is what some well-placed sources have led your columnist to believe. Next year’s CAR 7s will double as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
Hopefully, Lady Cranes will get more than a pat on the back should the previously mentioned wildcard see the light of day.