Saturday April 19 2014

Lady Cranes continue to get a poisoned chalice

Coach Anthony Kinene (L) oversees a drill

Coach Anthony Kinene (L) oversees a drill involving captain Helen Buteme (2nd L), Claire Anena (2nd R) and Rosenburg Kanyunyuzi (L) at Kyadondo RFC during preparation of the continental CAR 7s in Machakos, Kenya recently. File photo 

By Robert Madoi

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.

Golf: Uganda takes a step back for every two in front

An eighth placement at the just-ended Africa Zone VI Golf Championships represents a downswing for the national amateur golf team not just because they finished sixth in the same tournament last year, but because a lot was done to make Team Uganda competitive.

In a bid to make Team Uganda formidable, a gruelling qualification process swung into action. Team Uganda hopefuls were expected to bring their A game to the qualifiers that took place at both the Entebbe and Kitante golf courses.

Past reputations counted for nothing during the qualification process as indeed reigning Open champion, Peter Ssendawula, can attest. The form book was shredded as Ssendawula failed to make the cut in what, by all measures, was an intricate process.

The team got to Stellenbosch in time to acquaint itself with the picturesque 18-hole championship golf course at Devonvale Golf & Wine Estate that straddles 5,075m.

A university town just east of Cape Town, South Africa, Stellenbosch had congregated a dozen countries that among others included the hosts South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland and Kenya.
Uganda never recovered from an inauspicious start that saw it collect a whole of two points during the opening singles round of this tournament that’s played off a matchplay format.

Adolf Muhumuza and the quietly effective Robert Oluba were responsible for the points after securing varying wins. While Muhumuza had to grit his teeth en route to shrugging off Malawi’s Sam Mayuni 1-up, the unassuming Oluba saw off Mozambican Domingo Maibasse 7&6.

Big guns like team captain Phillip Kasozi (lost to Botswana’s Nabeel Desai 3&2) and Willy Deus Kitata (lost 6&4 at the hands of Kenya’s Tony Omuli) fell by the wayside.

Uganda has traditionally fared dismally in the four-balls and foursomes, so no eyelids were batted when a combined three points were tallied from those rounds. The final singles round yielded four points, with Kitata beating Namibia’s Douw van Wyk 4&3.

Oluba continued in his purple patch, seeing off Zambia’s Peter Munyinga 2-up. The same score was replicated by Kasozi, who got the better of Lesotho’s Yuliang Tsai. Ronald Rugumayo was the other Uganda to register a win, beating Kenya’s Tony Omuli 1-up.

In all truth, though, it was a bitterly disappointing campaign. A lot needs to be done to make Team Uganda competitive. It was invariably going to be difficult to upstage the likes of South Africa, which has 19 titles tucked under its belt, but at least a top five finish would have sufficed. So, hello drawing board, it is. Or is it!