Familiar foes present toughest tests for ruggers

Denis Etwau must use his jet heels to deliver a medal at the African Games. PHOTO/DENISE NAMALE 

What you need to know:

In the men's competition, the trio Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe are expected to steamroll Ghana, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Benin.

The pathway to the first African Games gold medal on rugby’s debut is clearly designed to deliver a mouth-watering finale on Thursday.

Uganda, with genuine designs on the titles in Accra, Ghana, will have to beat familiar foes to clinch the inaugural championship.

Both the men’s and women’s competitions will be played on a round-robin basis before a winner is decided.

Only three countries – hosts Ghana, Tunisia and Uganda – have entered teams in both events that start on Tuesday with the men.

In the men's competition, the trio Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe are expected to steamroll Ghana, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Benin.

However, Tunisia cannot be underestimated by any of the teams hoping to win the overall title.

On the final day, the fancied trio will clash in the hope of deciding a winner. The three have dominated the podium in the recent Africa Cup Sevens tournaments.

Kenya won last year’s edition with Uganda finishing third and hosts Zimbabwe fourth. In 2022 at Kyadondo Rugby Club, the order from first to third was Uganda-Zimbabwe-Kenya.

Before that, the 2019 edition ended with Kenya as winners, beating Uganda 29-0 in the final. Zimbabwe came third in South Africa.

Zimbabwe won the 2018 edition hosted by Tunisia. Kenya and Uganda finished second and third respectively.

Uganda lifted the 2017 Africa Cup Sevens, beating Zimbabwe 10-7 in an enthralling final at Legends Rugby Club.

Coach Tolbert Onyango arrived in Ghana last week from Uruguay where they played in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series along with Kenya.

While the Uganda Rugby Cranes 7s are labouring in the global series, they will feel confident of being among the medals in West Africa, and perhaps gold.

It will be no different for the women’s team, the Lady Cranes. Currently fourth in the Challenger Series, coach Charles Onen will demand gold here.

The pair of Tunisia and Uganda have the quality to dominate Ghana, Nigeria and Madagascar though the latter are a potential banana skin.

Uganda narrowly edged Tunisia 12-5 in a group stage game at the 2023 Africa Women’s Sevens on the latter’s home turf in Monastir.

That was revenge for the North Africans 17-15 triumph in a third-place playoff game at the 2022 tournament in Jemmal, Tunisia.

Their stranglehold stretches back to 2019 when Uganda lost 29-0 to Tunisia in a quarterfinal game in Jemmal.

Before last year, Uganda had last beat Tunisia in 2018, winning a semi-final game 10-5 in Botswana.

Hosts Tunisia also prevailed 14-5 a year earlier when the teams clashed for bronze. 

African Games


Men’s competition: Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Benin

Women’ competition: Uganda, Madagascar, Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria

Rugby fixtures – Uganda


Tuesday, March 19

Uganda vs. Burkina Faso, 2.44pm  

Uganda vs. Tunisia, 5.44pm

Wednesday, March 20

Uganda vs. Benin, 1.06pm  

Thursday, March 21

Uganda vs. Ghana, 12.44pm

Uganda vs. Zimbabwe, 3.28pm

Kenya vs. Uganda, 6.56pm  


Wednesday, March 20  

Uganda vs. Tunisia, 12.22pm  

Uganda vs. Ghana, 2.30pm

Thursday, March 21

Uganda vs. Nigeria, 2.22pm

Uganda vs. Madagascar, 5.28pm