by Andrew Oryada, Ronald Ssekandi
KAMPALA, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- As Africa's top rugby teams meet in Uganda this week for the Africa Rugby Sevens Championship, Uganda, a country that is previously unknown in the sport, is vowing to lift the trophy high.
High because it has done it before. Last year it won the Africa Sevens title after beating giants Namibia, in a game played in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
This victory catapulted the east African country on to the international stage. Although not yet in the giants league, the country is rubbing shoulders with the giants like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Starting this week, Oct. 6, it will face Madagascar, Mauritius, Tunisia, Botswana, Zambia, Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe in a tournament it is anticipating to win.
"Uganda will be more than determined to retain the African title and also ensure the team qualifies for the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games," Andrew Owor, Chairman of the Uganda Rugby Union (URU) told Xinhua on Wednesday.
The Africa Rugby Sevens Championship will also act as qualifiers for the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 and the Commonwealth Games.
Last weekend, Uganda and South Africa were the only African teams taking part in the inaugural Oktoberfest Sevens tournament in Munich, Germany.
Until about two decades ago, rugby was a little known sport in Uganda. The top popular sport was football.
Over the years, rugby has grown to become one of the most popular sports in the country.
"We have greatly improved and are ranked 17th in the world in the World Sevens series this year after playing in the Cape Town, Dubai and Hong Kong Sevens," Ramzy Olinga, the Chief Executive Officer of URU told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Olinga argued that the country has a lot of talent and what is missing is the exposure of the players to international events.
Allan Musoke, a former national star player told Xinhua that the standards of the players continues to get better pushing the country to the top giants on the African continent.
"The competitiveness in the national league is very tight because many younger players have now improved and the national teams all look more focused," Musoke said.
Charles Bakkabulindi, the country's minister of state for sports holds the same view noting that the sport is getting better.
Andrew Owor, president of URU argues that although the sport is growing, there is need for more financial support to boost it further.
"All developments and promotions of players in all categories must start in our different competitions and this can only get better with more financial input from the private sector and the government," Owor said.
He said retaining the Africa Sevens title and qualifying for the World Cup and Commonwealth Games remains the biggest target.
"If we qualify for the World Cup it will bring a positive change in the minds of the rugby fraternity, the sponsors and the government and the sport will never be the same again," he said.