Uganda Women’s Rugby Association
By Annekatrin Els
Women’s rugby in Uganda started in 2003 and has grown in leaps and bounds since then. It is run by the Uganda Women’s Rugby Association (UWRA), which is affiliated to the Uganda Rugby Union (URU). URU is in turn affiliated to the global, governing rugby body, World Rugby (WR), formerly known as the International Rugby Board or IRB. Apart from running the women’s game in Uganda, UWRA uses rugby as a tool to engage girls and women in activities that promote healthy lifestyles, as well as boosting confidence and self-esteem. Uganda Women’s Rugby Association (UWRA) also strives to keep girls in school and this year three girls received bursaries that cater for their secondary school tuition fees for the 2015 academic year, courtesy of a partnership with Ruusuvuoren Koulu School in Finland.
The first Ugandan 15-a-side women’s national team (nicknamed “Lady Cranes”) was formed in 2005 and comprehensively beat Rwanda 0-92 at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, Rwanda. Since 2006, the Uganda Lady Cranes have played the Kenya Lionesses in the annual Elgon Cup matches, a fiercely contested, home-and-away 15-a-side competition between the two countries. Uganda won the Elgon Cup in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2013 (there was no Elgon Cup competition in 2007, due to financial constraints). In 2013, Uganda played South Africa in a 15-a-side World Cup qualifying game in East London, South Africa. South Africa won the game and went on to represent Africa at the 2014 Women’s World Cup in France. This year, Uganda faces Kenya in the Elgon Cup on June 13th in Nairobi and June 20th in Kampala.
In the shorter, 7-a-side version of the game, Uganda hosted the Confederation of Africa (CAR) women’s 7s tournament in 2006, 2007 and 2008 where they finished second, behind South Africa each time. The 2008, the pan-African CAR 7’s tournament doubled as a World Cup qualifier and both Uganda and South Africa qualified to represent Africa at the 2009 7’s World Cup in Dubai. This feat made Uganda’s Lady Cranes the first senior team in the history of Ugandan sport to qualify for any World Cup. This year’s CAR 7’s (CAR is now known as Rugby Africa) doubles as an Olympics qualifier and will again be held in South Africa. The winners of the tournament will go on to represent Africa in Rio, Brazil next year. The second, third and fourth place finishers will have a second chance to qualify for the Olympics by taking part in an international tournament next year involving similarly placed countries from Asia, Europe, North America and the Caribbean, Oceania and South America.
On the local scene there are over 2,000 pre-teen girls playing tag (non-contact) rugby in Uganda with the tag rugby strongholds being in Entebbe, Jinja, Kampala and Mbale, although Busia, Gulu, Katwe, Kisoro, Kitgum, Lira, Mpigi, Mukono, Njeru, Soroti and Wakiso are starting to catch up. Tag rugby in Uganda is run by the Tag Rugby Trust (TRT), with volunteer coaches going to schools and orphanages and introducing the sport and running tournaments the whole year through. More details on TRT can be found on their facebook page (Tag Rugby Trust Uganda) or at their website http://www.tagrugbytrust.co.uk/where-we-work/uganda/. The number of teenage girls and adult women playing contact rugby in Uganda rose from just 400 at the end of last year to over 1,000 this year. Apac, Busia, Entebbe, Gulu, Jinja, Kampala, Kisoro, Kitgum, Lira and Mbale have Under 19 girls’ rugby teams that play mainly 7-a-side and 10-a-side (10’s) rugby. Entebbe, Gulu, Jinja, Kampala, and Kitgum are currently the only districts with senior women’s rugby teams with Thunderbirds Rugby Club and Black Panthers Rugby Club – both Kampala based – being the top senior 15-a-side teams at the moment.
Uganda girls’ and women’s rugby has the potential to grow even more and Uganda Women’s Rugby Association (UWRA) welcomes players from all over Uganda (and the world) to join our ranks and help make rugby the number one sport of choice for girls and women in Uganda.