In the world of sports, captivating stories often revolve around the resilience and determination of athletes and teams. Uganda’s remarkable journey during the Paramount Garments Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens 2023 tournament is one such tale. It was a rollercoaster ride filled with triumphs, challenges, and a resounding message that transcended the rugby field.
The journey began with a bang as Uganda faced off against Algeria in their opening match. With the defending champions eager to assert their dominance, Pius Ogena wasted no time, touching down within the first minute. It was a wake-up call that Algeria couldn’t ignore. Uganda went on to score seven tries, with Nobert Okeny, Aaron Ofoyrwoth, Adrian Kasito, Alex Aturinda (2), and Mubarak Wandera contributing to the dominant display. Philip Wokorach converted six tries, showcasing their all-around prowess. However, it wasn’t a flawless start, as Isaac Massanganzira received a yellow card for a high tackle.
Despite a second win against Burkina Faso, head coach Tolbert Onyango couldn’t help but express concerns about the team’s defense. While Uganda secured a 36-19 victory, their West African opponents managed to score three nearly identical tries. Onyango attributed this to “underestimation” of their opponents and emphasized the need for focus. Despite the defensive lapses, Uganda had progressed to the Cup Quarterfinals, setting the stage for more challenges.
The final match of Day One pitted Uganda against Zimbabwe, and the hosts proved to be a formidable adversary. Zimbabwe’s Cheetahs secured a resounding 35-05 victory over the defending champions, leaving fans stunned. Uganda’s mistakes from earlier matches came back to haunt them as Zimbabwe capitalized on quick tries. The loss marked a sobering moment, but it was also a testament to the competitiveness of the tournament.
Despite the setback, Uganda didn’t lose hope. On Day Two, they faced Zambia in the Cup Quarterfinals and emerged with a resounding 29-15 victory. Nobert Okeny, Pius Ogena, and Adrian Kasito were among the heroes of the day. Coach Tolbert Onyango acknowledged the challenges they had faced but saw an opportunity to play their best rugby and pursue Olympic qualification.
In the Cup Semifinals, Uganda faced an undefeated South African squad. The match was a closely contested battle, with Uganda holding their own for most of it. However, they eventually suffered a 26-14 defeat. Despite the loss, Uganda’s journey didn’t end there. The tournament offered the chance to secure tickets to the Olympic Games and the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.
In the Bronze Medal match, Uganda faced Zimbabwe once again. This time, they came from behind in the first half to secure a 24-12 victory. The win not only earned them a medal but also secured their place in the 7s Challenger Series in 2024. It was a moment of redemption and a testament to the team’s resilience.
As Uganda’s rugby team heads home, they do so with heads held high. Their journey in the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens 2023 was filled with ups and downs, but it showcased their determination, talent, and potential. The lessons learned, the challenges overcome, and the opportunities seized will undoubtedly shape their future endeavors. Uganda’s triumph in this tournament may be measured in medals, but its significance goes far beyond the podium, resonating as an inspiring chapter in the nation’s sporting history.