Uganda were forced to dig deep to end Rwanda’s 15-year dominance over them with a 3-1 (25-23, 28-26, 18-25, 35-33) win in their final African Games Zone V qualifier at Kasarani Indoor Arena on Wednesday.
After losing their first two matches to Kenya and Egypt, Nason Bwesigye’s started brightly clinching the first set 25-23. Turkey-based Daudi Okello showed his class in the second to wade off a strong challenge from the Rwandans and the stage was set for a historic victory.
Rwanda coach Paul Bitok rung changes to his side, introducing Yves Mutabazi and they raced to an 8-5 lead in the first technical time out. The lead was further stretched to 16-11 in the second technical time out and a four-point rally late on saw them win 25-18 to bring the sets score to 2-1.
“Every time Rwanda has been beating us by a whisker but we have always been bridging the gap. Today, we have shown that our time has come, 15 years is such a long time,” said Bwesigye.
His decision to rest his regulars George Aporu, Smith Okumu and Dickens Otim in the latter stages of the third set paid off in the fourth as they emerged victorious after a nervy ending with Okello flawless in attack.
“We started poorly and that forced us to use a lot of energy in the third set. I am happy with the performance of the three Ugandan players (Kathbart Malinga, Okello and Ivan Ongom) that I have taken to Europe. It shows that this region will be up there in Africa if we give our players more opportunities to play professional volleyball abroad,” said Bitok.
The win leaves Uganda with four points while Rwanda have three after one win and two losses. The result also confirmed Egypt, who were set to meet Kenya later Wednesday at the same venue, as the winners of the qualifiers.