Three and a half years on from creating a piece of Uganda sporting history, the Lady Cranes are hoping to book their place at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 by winning the Confédération Africane de Rugby (CAR) Sevens title in Morocco this weekend.
The Lady Cranes qualified for the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens competition in Dubai in 2009, becoming their country’s first team to qualify for a World Cup in any sport, and are hungry for more exposure on the world stage.
Helen Buteme and Charlotte Mudoola were part of that historic team and will be key figures in Uganda’s quest to claim the one qualification place available for African teams to join the region’s direct qualifiers South Africa at Moscow 2013.
“The experience we got in Dubai was good and the exposure really opened our eyes to work even harder,” admitted Mudoola, whose side will face Senegal and Zimbabwe on day one of the CAR Sevens in Rabat.
The other pool features Tunisia, Kenya, Morocco and Zambia with the Kenyans determined to honour their teammate Aberdeen Shikoyi, who passed away earlier this year after suffering a spinal injury in an Elgon Cup match with Uganda.
“Morale is high in the camp,” insisted captain Doreen Remour. “We have trained well and are waiting for the tournament’s kick off.
“Early this year we lost our captain, Aberdeen Shikoyi and her wish was that we qualify for the World Cup. I know the team will do its best and qualify for the World Cup.”
Women's rugby important for Kenya
The Kenyan men’s team have already qualified directly for RWC Sevens 2013 after reaching the semi finals in Dubai and the Kenyan Rugby Union chairman Mwangi Muthee is confident the women’s team can enjoy similar success.
“Women’s rugby has come a long way, from the time these girls played touch rugby at Mwamba. Now they are accomplished internationals and I would like to say without batting an eyelid that the Kenya’s women’s team is as competitive as the men’s team.
“We, as the Kenya Rugby Union, are putting a lot of emphasis on the women’s team. Women’s rugby, boys rugby, men’s rugby are all equal in the eyes of the KRU. We are investing in girls rugby just as we are doing for boys rugby.
“These girls have put in a lot of work and I am confident they have a real chance of winning in Morocco. I am sure they are going to bring the same glory that the men’s team has brought to this country.”
Eleven of the 16 places in the women's event at RWC Sevens 2013 have already been filled. Champions Australia, runners-up New Zealand, South Africa, USA and hosts Russia qualified directly with England, Spain, France, Netherlands, Ireland and Canada joining them so far.
The five remaining places will be filled by the African and South American champions and three qualifiers from the Asian qualifier, which takes place in Pune, India, on 6-7 October. Fiji, the best placed team behind Australia and New Zealand in the Oceania Sevens, will play in the Asian qualifier.