Uganda team celebrate after Conrad Wanyama's try Credit: Philip Kairu

Despite winning the 2023 Victoria Cup on Sunday evening, Uganda Rugby Cranes head coach Fred Mudoola said he is not dwelling on the positive results. Instead, Mudoola insists that he wants to see the “processes” working.

“I’m not going to look at the results. I want to see the processes and systems working.”

Mudoola was speaking to Kawowo Sports after the match against Kenya on a range of discussions including Uganda returning to winning ways, the debutants’ outings, and the start of a fresh campaign. The conversation with Mudoola gives some hints into the “processes and systems” he has chosen to focus on at the start of the long-term campaign.

“I am really happy for the players because they needed to get winning. You know we have been on a losing streak for long so, for me, I’m extremely happy for the players. The hard work they put in has been a huge step up from Zambia. (Against) Zambia, we were so lethargic, it’s like we had not been training. For me, in this particular play, at least they somehow played the structure even at sixty per cent, especially in defence. But for now, I am leaving the scoreboard, I want to see the processes working.”

While Uganda has an impressive seventy-one per cent win rate in seven test matches played since 2020, it has a poor record against Kenya. Before Sunday, Uganda had last beaten Kenya during the 2019 Elgon Cup and that was just their second victory in the last eleven meetings.

One of the reasons why Kenya always found the edge over Uganda was by taking control of the match straight from kick-off. And the script nearly repeated itself despite Mudoola planning otherwise. Within ten minutes, Kenya had already put twelve points on the scoreboard.

The Uganda Rugby Cranes technical bench during 2023 Victoria Cup Credit: Philip Kairu

“We stressed the need to start early. We have morning meetings, usually, and we stressed it there. So perhaps, in all this, that’s one area we have to work on. And indeed, if we had started the way we wanted the ten minutes to be, we couldn’t have conceded those twelve points. So that’s one of the lows but we (the coaches) shall find a way.”

Important to note is that this is not an isolated case for only the senior men’s squad but also the senior women’s squad and the age-grade U20 men.

coach carlos Katywa’s breakdown of Kenya’s performance

Uganda was able to stay in the fight by overwhelming Kenya in the setpieces and at the breakdown. Although Uganda were not perfect in those facets of the game, they were far better than Kenya on the day.

“You notice we have been terrible at the breakdown. We told (assistant S&C coach) Timo how we wanted to play and he developed drills to make sure how we were going to tackle and then jackal. So after that, we put it into practice. On Friday, we had a morning session. It was only on the tackling and jackalling. So these things, it is practice. It can’t just happen on the pitch.”

Mudoola believes the Rugby Cranes set a good baseline for the objectives URU has outlined for the next two Rugby World Cup cycles.

“(It is) a very good baseline for one reason; the youths. I got some stick from the fans about ‘starting these guys at the back row… how? Where is so and so?’. For me, that has made my evening today and that is the baseline. We do not eliminate the old (players) like people are saying. It should be done gradually. But it is a very good place and now, we know where we want to go and who can do what. Those guys stood up and I’m so proud of those guys.”

Uganda had ten debutants, eight of whom earned their first test caps during the Victoria Cup last week. They are Alhaji Manano, Nicholas Kato, Frank Kidega, Liam Walker, Shakim Ssembusi, Sydney Gongodyo, Timothy Kisiga, and Moses Zziwa. The others await their turn during the Elgon Cup this Saturday and against Tunisia later this year.

Realistically, it is too late to envision Uganda at the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia but now may be the right time for the right processes and systems to send Uganda to the 2031 edition in North America.

Ernest Akorebirungi joined Kawowo Sports in July 2019 after one year as a student volunteer at the Makerere University Games Union. In his role as rugby correspondent, he offers unique insight and analysis...

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