2018: The year of the Pirate and the 7s Rugby Cranes

It was mostly a 2018 to remember for Ugandan rugby, and much more if you are a Black Pirates fan, writes William Kasoba.

Uganda might have joined the ranks of rugby playing nations as far back as 1958 when it played its first official rugby game, but in a sport with a well-demarcated and hardly changing boundary between heavyweights and lesser lights, there was never a debate that the Rugby Cranes found their home in the latter category.

Well, that changed for at least a week when Uganda made it to its first Rugby Sevens World Cup, confirming a growing status the game as one of the country’s favourite and fastest progressing sports disciplines.

Yet, everything must start with the game being in the right kind of health domestically. And there was no better embodiment of that wonderful health than Black Pirates.

Black Pirates become ‘boss’ on the local scene
The 2017/18 campaign will always be one to remember in the history of the Black Pirates and Ugandan rugby overall. The Pirates enjoyed their most successful season, winning a first Rugby Premiership title and the National Sevens title to boot. The Pirates then came close to claiming a treble, only to lose the Uganda Cup final to Betway Kobs.

Rugby Sevens play at maiden Rugby World Cup Sevens
After years of registering near misses, Uganda Rugby Sevens in 2017 finally qualified for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens after defeating Zimbabwe 10-7 in a hard-fought final played at Legends.

That ensured that they retained the 2017 Africa Cup Sevens and in addition to their 2018 World Cup qualification, coach Tolbert Onyango’s boys also made it to the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. The results at the Sevens World Cup in the USA may have been forgettable, but a 19th place finish was nothing to scoff at for a debuting side.

Strike over allowances disrupts Gold Cup campaign
Not all was rosy, however. Following a good showing in the 2017 Gold Cup campaign, the Rugby Cranes were tipped to do better this time around.

The campaign did not go to plan, with the team settling for third place once again. The real disaster of the campaign came to the public eye in the last game, as the boys threatened not to feature in a game Zimbabwe unless their allowances were paid.

The resulting disruption was enough to lead to a 38-18 loss at home.