Rugby Cranes Pay Price of Relegation

Following Uganda’s demotion to Tier 1C – the lowest category where they will compete against minnows – the Rugby Cranes have been left to lick their wounds, writes Felix Eupal.

Few expected The Rugby Cranes to return home with a result considering the events surrounding the team’s departure. They left on the backdrop of poor preparations and the team hadn’t played any notable test match save for the friendly with the Bamburi franchises.

They were running on a shoe-string budget and loyal fans had to dig deep in their purses to have all the team’s needs like travel documents and supplements catered for. The outcome was two loses a drop to the lowest tier of African rugby. Uganda also fell from 41 to 57 in the world rankings. Despite fielding arguably The Rugby Cranes youngest side with Cyrus Wathum [19], Jasper Ochen [21] Marvin Odongo [21] and Justin Kimono [22] playing pivotal roles, the aura around the team and local rugby body URU was disheartening.

One would look at them as players for the future and paint a rosy picture for what lies ahead, considering that other youngsters such as Alfred Bijik, Ezekiel Okuo, Philip Wokorach, James Mussiitwa were left behind due preparation for the Commonwealth Games. The 2007 dream team that lifted the African Cup had been together since 2003 and also faced a number of losses.

But a look at the current situation shows that the problem is not just with the coaching staff that the fans have given the sharp end of the sword and asked for their resignation. It’s the administrative woes surrounding the team, which has left The Cranes with the short end of the stick. Ever since the tier format was set up in 2010. [it is based on each countries IRB rankings}. Three tiers were formed, 1A, 1B, 1C.

When a team drops from the three in plays in the lower Africa Nations tournament. Uganda has only won two internationals in the last two years dropping 26 slots. From the player bans in 2007, the boycott of the national team by senior players, the various financial scandals, the with drawl of Coca Cola from sponsoring the schools which has produced the best talent for the team, the change of the league format which reduced the number of games and competition.

Andrew Owor the Union president still has one year left on three year reign to clear many misdoings. There has been cry for a foreign coach but the last time Kenyan tactician Ham Onsando handled the country two years ago, they faltered to deceive. The Rugby Cranes now find it very hard to attract corporate sponsorship not because of the board room wrangles alone but the poor display as well.

Kenya, who followed The Rugby Cranes script when they ruled Africa, got the right notes applied them and tore that script to write a better one. Currently they are not sending their first team to feature in this year’s Elgon Cup citing a lack of competition and can only afford to send their second string side for the traditional two legged Elgon Cup.

Now the focus is on getting this team ready to qualify for the world cup qualifiers 2019 but that will be a comic gag if the other pieces are not put in place.

Source : The Observer

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