Story highlights

Uganda makes Sevens World Series debut

Team inspired by traditional hymn

Two wins over Olympic semifinalist Japan

CNN  — 

The singing might not quite be at the level of a professional choir, but the words say it all for Uganda’s rugby sevens team.

“I know the Lord will make a way for me.”

It’s been a long wait for the African side to make its debut on the elite Sevens World Series circuit, and now they’ve had a taste of top-level action the players can’t wait for more.

“This has really opened up big doors and windows for the young players back at home,” team captain Eric Kasiita told CNN’s World Rugby show at December’s Dubai Sevens.

“I guess they are looking up to young boys, because this is a very young team, and I’m sure very many want to break through and join the team.”

Uganda’s “Rugby Cranes” finished 14th of the 16 teams taking part, but notched up a notable win over Japan – which reached the semifinals of the Rio 2016 Olympic men’s tournament in August.

They followed it up with another win over Japan in the Cape Town Sevens, again finishing 14th.

Apart from their refreshing brand of rugby, the players’ performance of a motivational hymn was also notable.

“If I live a holy life, shun the wrong and do the right, I know the Lord will make a way for me.”

Team manager Michael Wandera says it is sung before and after every game the team plays.

“In singing this hymn, the team recognizes that with God all things are possible,” he told CNN.

“It is meditative, raises the team psyche and causes the team to focus as one.”

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It has been a big year for the Cranes – they qualified for the two opening events of the 2016-17 world series by winning Africa’s rugby sevens title for the first time in September.

Uganda beat Kenya, a team well established on the world series, in the semifinals and then crushed Namibia – a country which has played at the past four Rugby World Cup 15-a-side tournaments – in the final.

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The next goal is April’s prestigious Hong Kong Sevens, where Uganda and Namibia will be among the teams aiming to grab the sole qualifying spot to join the core status sides for the 2017-18 world series.