Uganda are one of the 12 men’s teams who will be looking to keep alive their hopes of gaining core team status on the remodelled HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2024 over the next fortnight in South Africa.

Whoever tops the standings after back-to-back tournaments in Stellenbosch will win the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series and enter into a four-team event at the HSBC London Sevens in May.

Joining them will be the core teams placed 12th to 14th after 10 rounds of the current World Series. Whoever comes out on top of that play-off will then achieve core team status for 2024.

The Rugby Cranes Sevens are one of the form teams below the elite end of the game and are aiming to at least improve on last year’s 17-14 defeat to Germany in the Challenger Series quarter-final.

They find themselves in Pool C with Brazil, Jamaica and Korea.

“We got good results at the Commonwealth Games and at the Rugby World Cup Sevens and in the Challenger Series we fell a bit short, but that’s the way sport goes,” said Tolbert Onyango, who’s been head coach since 2015.

“For us, the goal is to beat the previous milestone which is the quarter-finals and to get into the semis and if we do that, we’ll see what’s next. That’s where our focus is – get out of our pool with a good placing and put up a good fight to get into the semis.”

2022 will be tough to beat

Although the appearances on the World Series as the invitational side in Dubai and Cape Town in December ended in disappointment, 2022 was still a hugely successful year for the Rugby Cranes Sevens, some would say their best ever.

They won the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens Championship at home in April, came 10th at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – including a draw with Australia and a 40-0 win over one of their Challenger Series opponents Jamaica – and then in September, they narrowly missed out on the Challenger Series semi-finals in Chile and won the Bowl at Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town.

Winning the Challenger Series and then seeing off the competition for a place on the World Series in 2024 would top the lot, however.

“That’s our aim, to get to the Holy Grail of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. It is not going to be a walk in the park, it is going to be really tough.

“But we’ve been together for two months as opposed to three weeks last year so that has given us a good platform to understand the game better and to also know ourselves a bit better because we have got some new boys in the squad and get them up to speed with the intensity that is required at this level. So I think in terms of preparation we will better prepared than last year.”

With Phillip Wokorach still needed by his club in France, Uganda will have to contend without one of their star players.

However, his brother Micheal will be there in Stellenbosch to lead a squad containing two new debutants, Aaron Tukei and Alan Olango.

“Obviously we shall miss him (Wokorach) but it gives an opportunity to try out new blood, young blood and see if they can put their hands up to take Uganda forward for the next couple of years in terms of sevens,” added Onyango, the former Kenya sevens player.