Rugby Cranes return to strength for Olympic quest

Adrian Kasito is back in the side after missing the final leg of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series. 

What you need to know:

The Cranes went a notch higher by qualifying for the 2018 and 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens held in the USA and South Africa, respectively.

Uganda's national men’s Rugby Sevens team has grown from strength to strength since coach Tolbert Onyango took over permanently in 2015.

Under his guidance, the Rugby Cranes have won the Africa Sevens three times: 2016, 2017 and 2022, with the latter two victories coming at home in Kampala. They also clinched a silver medal in 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa, a bronze in Tunisia in 2018 and last year in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The Cranes went a notch higher by qualifying for the 2018 and 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens held in the USA and South Africa, respectively.

Additionally, the team alongside their female counterparts, bagged gold at the African Games in Accra to put a smile on their fans’ faces despite mixed results in other competitions earlier.

Despite their rising form, the Rugby Cranes faced hiccups with ninth and sixth finish in the opening two legs of the Challenger Series in Dubai and Montevideo, ending their chances of promotion to the lucrative HSBC Sevens.

This situation provided Onyango with a chance to test the squad's depth by giving playing time to several fringe players and releasing experienced members for the final leg in Munich, Germany. But the time for respite is now over.

Philip Wokorach is available for the final shot at the Olympics. PHOTOS/COURTESY 

Onyango has recalled his stars for the big weekend in Monaco as they seek to set a new record by qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Among the five key players returning after missing the plane to Munich include three-time African champions Adrian Kasito and Philip Wokorach. The others are captain Ian Munyani, Timothy Kisiga and Pius Ogena. The latter is the only surviving member of the 2016 team that laid the foundation for Onyango’s success.

Onyango hopes what they have been building in the last three or so years will mature this weekend and earn another stripe on their famous jersey.

“We have to play according to the structures that we’ve been built for the last three years. If we play well and stick to the plan, the results will come our way,” Onyango urged his players. Uganda is in Group B with China and Tokyo 2020 finalists Great Britain and Canada.

The winner of the eleven-team tournament will earn the sole ticket to the Paris tournament. The teams were reduced to 11 after World Rugby confirmed that Papua New Guinea withdrew due to travel glitches.

Rugby Cranes squad: Ian Munyani (C), Alex Aturinda, Philip Wokorach, Pius Ogena, Timothy Mugisha, Allan Olango, Karim Arinaitwe, William Nkore, Roy Kizito, Adrian Kasito, Timothy Kisiga and Norbert Okeny.

Uganda men’s group fixtures

Friday (3.28 pm) – Canada vs Uganda

Saturday (12.52 pm) – Great Britain vs. Uganda

Saturday (5.28 pm) – Uganda vs. China

Participating teams: Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Great Britain, Hong Kong China, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Spain, Tonga and Uganda