The Uganda Rugby Sevens team managed only two wins against Japan the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series in both Dubai and South Africa, but Coach Tolber Onyango was satisfied with the performance of the team, and is looking to build on that ahead of the Hong Kong sevens in March next year.
Michael Nsubuga sought Onyango’s thoughts about the game in the World Series and the country.
How was the experience of the rugby sevens in Dubai and South Africa?
It was very good experience and the tournament was an eye opener. There were a lot of good things to learn and there were a lot of good things that we know we are doing and we need to improve on a few things to bridge the gap.
Our defense seemed problematic, what is the plan to fix it?
That is one of the areas we need to work on and we have three months to fix that before Hong Kong and we are going to ensure that we fix it.
Despite winning against one team, we must have won a few fans there?
Yes, we had a lot of followers both in Dubai and Cape Town, many enjoyed the brand of rugby we were playing; a bit of free flowing and not much of contact and as under dogs we didn’t do too badly and we realized the gap is not very big, we only have to work on only a few technical areas and we will be okay.
Where did we perform better in Dubai or South Africa?
In terms of winning games we were the same. We won one game against Japan in Dubai and South Africa. In terms of attack and structure we are now starting to play more as team but we were a bit fatigued in Cape Town because it was the first time we were playing two tournaments, back to back and we were not well conditioned for that.
Which areas do you think the other teams were better than us?
Certainly in terms of experience, all those teams have been playing in the series for over ten years. There are things that are standard practice for them, unlike us who are just beginning to build; now that we have tasted life at that level it gives us more morale to come back and work on our weaknesses.
We looked good on attack did you forget to work on the defense?
No. You know there are different aspects to the game and when we have the ball, we are very lethal, when we don’t; there are a lot of things we need to do to get the ball back. Our one-on-one tackling ratio was wanting; instead of one person tackling one opponent we had to sometimes employ up to 3 people to do the job, so that exposed us and that why our defense was lacking. So going forward we have to ensure we are physically ready for those one-on-one challenges; we were not very strong.
But in terms of defending, our problem was on tackle completion because individuals could not do it efficiently and we had to pull in other people to defend and that exposed us.
What then do we need to do?
We have to ensure our players are a bit stronger than what they are now. In terms of nutrition, gym work, conditioning, speed and agility, and those things take years to build, it does not come in a flash.
How much time do you think we need to match the likes of South Africa?
Maybe 2-3 years. For them they have been in the series for over ten years, and were number two in the world; and there are things they do that we haven’t started doing and some of them involve finances, so it will take us sometime.
We also need to study the game more, be better conditioned, and specialise in terms of players.
How about the lack of regular competitions?
Competitions like this expose you to what is happening out there at the top level, so the more you compete, the more you learn and improve subsequently. If finances allow you can upgrade and challenge opponents competitively.
So when do we start Hong Kong preparations?
We have a three-week break and then we shall start on January 4
In your opinion, as a country where should we concentrate more, in the 7s or 15s?
We need to concentrate in both areas but I think a quick way to success for us would be the sevens. But we need to develop young players in the sevens and feed them off to the fifteens where they can be conditioned in order to compete.