Wokorach; a proud leader who has played in three special generations

Leader of pack. Michael Wokorach is relishing captaining the Rugby Cranes 7s at the World Cup. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

I am definitely proud to lead such a batch of talented players. I have been a leader for almost my whole rugby playing career. From Heathens to the national 15s teams as an assistant to the national 7s to captaining the whole contingent to the Commonwealth Games.

Michael Wokorach will lead out the national rugby team – the Rugby Cranes Sevens – at their second World Cup appearance in Cape Town, South Africa. For a player who made his debut for Uganda nearly 15 years ago, there is much he has witnessed in that time for a side that comes from rags to riches. This week, he sat down with Nation Media Group’s Head of Sports Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo to recollect a journey that has seen him play at four Commonwealth Games, win two Africa Cups and represent his country at the World Cup.

What does it mean to you going to a World Cup?

Definitely, the World Cup is one of the biggest stages where you can go and showcase your talent. Going there for a second time is an honour. We were there in 2018 and then we are going back in 2022. It’s a big stage, there are 24 teams in total that qualified. It’s going to be a massive weekend. We expect big from the tournament and we expect to build more on our experience.

What did it feel walking out at the T&T Stadium in San Francisco for the World Cup for the first time?

I vividly remember it. We played Samoa. This was a baseball stadium, turned into a rugby stadium. The boys had butterflies walking out into 40,000 fans. And we were never used to playing in such conditions and the World Cup features the best teams. There were nerves. We didn’t know what to do. We were star struck. We didn’t have the best result but I scored my first ever World Cup try against Samoa and it was very beautiful as it was the only one. It was quite an experience, the atmosphere and many things.

Did you make a vow to return to the World Cup?

Yes, we did.

So, that first game on Friday against Samoa, same as 2018, how do you go about it?  

I know the team we are going to play is tricky and tough. They recently finished the HSBC (World Rugby Sevens Series) and put up a good show. It’s the one shot we have against Samoa to ensure that we qualify for the next stage of the tournament.

It will require that we come out focused, determined and ready to see that we take on the challenge ahead of us. So, big things for us as Ugandan rugby sevens team. It’s all on us to put this team on the world map then get better funding and also we are playing rugby at the highest level.

What’s changed over the past four years since you last played at the World Cup?

Definitely, a lot has changed right from the players to the experience in the tournaments we have played. Much has changed as we have gotten better. We have played a couple of tournaments before this. We just recently played in Chile (World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series) and Birmingham (Commonwealth Games). The team put up good performances.  

Over the last four years the team has gained more experience and exposure. They are playing better rugby than 2018.

How proud are you to be the leader of this team?

I am definitely proud to lead such a batch of talented players. I have been a leader for almost my whole rugby playing career. From Heathens to the national 15s teams as an assistant to the national 7s to captaining the whole contingent to the Commonwealth Games.

So, it’s a proud moment to have a good thing to have a batch of talented players putting their bodies on the line and playing beautiful rugby. I always tell them that I am the oldest guy on the team and I am proud of you guys and how far you have come with this team. The future is very bright for the team. If you look at the average age of the team, it’s about 25 or 26 so they still have a huge platform to play rugby.

You have been to South Africa before. What are the conditions like for someone going there for the first time?

We went for the Cape Town 7s after Dubai a few years ago. The conditions are quite good. You know South Africa is a rugby playing nation. The atmosphere is good. The ambiance is good. The organisation is very good for rugby. We expect the World Cup to be very interesting. It will be a very good three days of rugby. I am sure the stadium will be packed to capacity.

I heard a few weeks ago that tickets ran out two months after it was announced that the World Cup was going to be in Cape Town. We are waiting for these big numbers so we get to play in that kind of crowd and atmosphere.

Let’s go back to the start, 7s rugby in Uganda has not always had this kind of attention and success. How do you reflect on all that past and how much the team has grown?

I have definitely been on this team for the longest. I have seen this team come from the grassroots to glory. I started playing for Uganda 7s in 2009. My first tournament was in Tunisia where we played in the World Cup qualifiers. Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify. We finished sixth overall out of 12. You could see that over the years, we have come out as a brilliant team.

Rugby has really evolved. The way it is played, managed, the money invested and the media too. Uganda has come a long way. I am glad I have seen all this through the years. Back then, we used to play only one tournament, the Safari Sevens, if we were lucky that the (Uganda Rugby) Union got money.

If we were lucky, we would for a week or two before the tournament then go with only expectations of making the quarterfinals and none to win. A lot has changed, now we go to tournaments knowing we can win. Players have come and evolved. I have played with three different generations.

I can tell you this has been the most privileged one I have played with because we have won the Africa Cup three times, qualified for World Cup twice and still gone to the Commonwealth Games thrice (four times for me). A lot has changed over the years in how the game is managed, the stakeholders, the union’s thinking about the 7s and the fans interpretation.

There are more fans watching us than before. We will be playing more tournaments soon. The goal was to qualify for the HSBC series which we didn’t achieve but the team is in high spirits that there is a lot more we can reach going forward. Everyone is gearing up for what comes our way.

Can you highlight some of the setbacks in your time as part of Uganda Sevens?

There is no success without setbacks. With all this success right now, we have had some setbacks. First of all, for all the years, Uganda has been predominantly 15s. They won the African championship two times (2002 and 2007).

You realise that all the focus was shifted to the 15s. By the time the 7s was trying to come up to speed, there wasn’t much coming in. We didn’t have much funding and sponsors. Everyone was concentrating on the 15s. However, over the years, things have changed from 2013/14. We realised that we can pick up the 7s team, the brand and take it places. When they first appointed coach Tolly (Tolbert Onyango) as the 7s coach, a lot has changed. We are now respected as a 7s nation in Africa. We are number two, after South Africa. It’s something big and shows that this short code can take Uganda places. Yes, we still lose tournaments. We used to go to vie for number five but now we are in contention for silverware.  

Personally, I have setbacks. In 2016, I broke my jaw. I thought I was going to retire. I couldn’t eat solid food for about four weeks. It was quite draining. I asked; why should I be enjoying this sport with these injuries?'' I came back the following year and won the Africa Cup at Legends. Our success has been attributed to determination, hard work and seeing that the future is bright. We know that when we do well, we will attract more sponsors into the sport and bring glory to ourselves and Uganda.

For a sport so hard and physical yet you aren’t paid a substantial amount, what pushes you every single day to take that tackle?

I have passion for the game. I am a learned man. I put the money aside. I have a job. I earn my bread through my career. So basically, rugby is just a part-time thing. A passion for which I have put my body on the line. So many doors for me playing for Uganda because I can approach an office and want a service.

When they recognize that this is Michael Wokorach, I am often helped. It has also brought privileges. I am respected in society. Being captain, the young players listen to me and I am a mentor. A lot has happened. Even when there is not too much money, we put up our hands playing for this great nation.

The money bit has started coming. It is showing that more sponsors want to get involved. Uganda rugby has really helped the sport to market it. I thank them for it. Government has taken great interest in this rugby 7s program, almost putting it at the same level as soccer because they are seeing the results.

If we get that extra push, definitely Ugandan rugby will burst out and be on top of the world. We can shock some nations. Yes, the money aspect hinders us because we have to feed, go to the gym, dress nicely and buy a kit. Sometimes, you just have to put this behind and go with what our passion says. We also know things will get better in future. In the near future when I retire, I also want to leave the sport in a better place. I will be very happy if more companies come and sponsor the sport. Right now, we are on a semi-pro scale but if we can become fully professional, it’s good for everyone.

Three Africa titles, how special are they?

People think we just broke out and started winning. This program started in 2013. We have a coach before Tolly. For two years, we didn’t see success. We were playing to grow as a team. That first time we won in 2016, no one believed that we would win. It’s unfortunate that I had gone on an assignment in Malawi and didn’t play.

I had the team at heart and knew what the team was capable of. Everyone was fearing Kenya then the boys outshined them. We beat Kenya hands down in the semi-finals. If the tournament ended, it was enough. Then we had to play Namibia in the final so we knew that since we had beaten Kenya, nothing was going to stop us. That was the biggest surprise to the nation and even the union. It was the sweetest title ever for those boys. It showed that what we were doing was working. All the sacrifice was bearing fruits.

In 2017, we hosted and Kenya didn’t make it because they had qualified. Here, we didn’t lose any game in that tournament and hence made our first World Cup and another qualification to the Commonwealth Games in 2018. It was amazing. People started believing that actually we were now the team to take us places. We didn’t do well at the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games but we learnt a lot.

I cannot say we were confident about winning the Africa Cup at Kyadondo this year but we believed in ourselves. We started training in January. The team had been to South Africa and Dubai in 2021 but they disbanded and came together again in January. There was so much hard work. For the years I have been with this 7s team, we had never trained as hard as we did this time. It was the hardest we have ever gone. I lost 10kgs in those months because I was working hard. The boys were in the finest shape ever. We got help from Philip Snyman from South Africa. There were a lot of hands. The union worked hard to get money and contract players and give them all they needed to win so there were no excuses. Kenya had been disturbing us, they beat us in the 2019 final. We need to play them again and see how far we have come. It was a blessing to face them in the semis. While some cite the (soggy) conditions, rugby is played in all conditions- wet, muddy, rain and sun. We came out firing. This is a team of destiny. We conceded only three tries.



I was influenced by my peers to join rugby. I grew up in Bugolobi flats. But then I moved to Nakawa to live with my auntie. That’s where I found sportsmen doing every kind of sport. You will see soccer, rugby, tennis and cricket. I met Benon Kizza and Brian Kikawa. They asked me to take a walk to the rugby pitch to see what happens there. I went there as a ball boy. Those white boys then would give 5,000 or 2,000 after picking the balls. So, I decided to tag along.

I fell in love with the sport and how it was governed. I was also struck that there were so many whites playing so I thought that something would drop. My first ball was in 2002 and my first coach was Mark Olweny in tag rugby. I didn’t play long as I had to go to high school after primary and moved to a non-rugby school called Kibibi SS where football was everything.

I didn’t do much in Kibibi and the later Merryland SSS. I was not interested in football. It was never my calling. I tried basketball in Bugolobi but even that didn’t appeal to me. The way my body is structured suited rugby. I am naturally strong and aggressive.

Even when in Kibibi, I always came and fine-tuned my rugby during holidays. In Merryland, I met Denis ‘Mulo’ Okello and then Kikawa joined so we scaled up the sport. Then I went to St Lawrence for A level which is a rugby playing school and from that time, my rugby shot as we played Budo and Namilyango.

In S.6, I played for the Buffaloes for six month. Edgar Muyodi, Preston (Tibashoboka) and I were picked up from school to play and then dropped at school. After high school, I joined Heathens in 2008.    


Name: Michael Wokorach

Age: 32

Height: 1.86m

Weight: 98kg

Education: Kibibi SS, St Lawrence, Merryland SS, Nkumba University

Profession: Procurement and Logistics Manager

Clubs: Toyota Buffaloes, Heathens

Uganda 7s debut: 2009 in Tunisia at the World Cup qualifiers

African Titles: 2 (2017 and 2019)  

Commonwealth Games: 4 appearances (2010, 2014, 2018, 2022





Qualified for 2018, finished 19th

Qualified for 2022


2006: Bowl semiifinalist (finished 11th

2010: Bowl semifinalist (11th)

2014: Bowl semifinalist (11th)

2018: Group stage (12th)

2022: Finished 10th


2022: Champions

2019: Finalists

2018: Finished third

2017: Champions

2016: Champions

2015: Finished seventh


Mathias Ochwo, Robert Seguya, Timothy Mudoola, Allan Musoke, Philip Wokorach, Lawrence Sebuliba, Desire Ayera, Ian Munyani, Benon Kizza, Brian Kikawa, Timothy Kisiga, Adrian Kasito, Aaron Ofoywroth