Chile and Uruguay complete line-up for HK
By Frankie Deges, in Renaca, Chile
Teary-eyed, Chile Sevens head coach Emundo Olfos was hoisted aloft by his side after they booked their place at the HSBC Sevens World Series promotion play-off in Hong Kong, by performing heroics at this weekend's CONSUR Sevens in Renaca Chile.
The tournament was the third stop for South America's national teams in a three-tournament circuit that was first launched in 2013/14 by the region's governing body CONSUR, with Chile and Uruguay finishing highest of the nations outside Argentina.
They join a tough competition in Hong Kong also featuring Tunisia, Zimbabwe (CAR/Africa); Hong Kong, Japan (ARFU/Asia); Italy, Russia (FIRA/Europe); American Samoa, Cook Islands (FORU/Oceania); Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago (NACRA/North American & Caribbean), and from which only one team will win promotion to the Series. It promises to be emotionally-charged and high drama at the Hong Kong Stadium.
The three South American tournaments which allowed Chile and Uruguay to reach this hallowed stage were the Super Seven del NEA and the Dove Men's Sevens in Mar del Plata – both Argentina – and the Viña Sevens in Chile. Further proof that, with the Olympic Games coming to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, CONSUR nations are now working with their respective Olympic Committees to achieve success in Rugby Sevens.
“In order to give our member unions more competition we have joined well established club and provincial tournaments and assisted towards having an international section,” explained CONSUR President and IRB Council Member Carlos Barbieri.
“The initial feedback is that it was very successful and we will try to make it stronger and better for the next year. This is a great way to give teams the opportunities they need,” concluded Barbieri.
Chile went unbeaten in the Renaca tournament, twice beating the Argentine 'Pampas VII' development side en route to the title. On day one they beat Peru 45-0, before beating the Argentine side 21-7, while in the other poolm, Uruguay beat Paraguay 5-0 and Brazil 15-5.
With the two places in Hong Kong up for grabs, the top four sides from the pools went into a round robin. In front of a sizable crowd, Chile showed their intentions with a 33-0 win against a Brazilian side that played well below their capabilities. Uruguay beat the Argentine Pampas 15-7, before they faced Chile, who won 19-14 thanks to a try from Tomas Laniszewski in the dying seconds.
A participant at the Rugby World Cup Sevens last year, Uruguay then took on Brazil, themselves working their way into the shortened game's elite, and the match ended 14-7 to Uruguay.
“It was very important for us to qualify for Hong Kong,” said Juan de Freitas, the only player from the Uruguayan fifteens squad released for the Sevens. “Of course the goal this year is to qualify for the Rugby World Cup 2015, but the skills and fitness I can get in sevens will help me personally.”
Uruguay then watched the last match knowing they could still win the title, but Chile had other ideas and took the trophy with a second defeat of the Argentine 'Pampas' select, a try and conversion by Francisco González the only difference in the narrow, much celebrated, 7-5 victory.
With the ODESUR Games also taking place in March, Olfos was pleased his side were able to demonstrate their ability at this tournament.
“We are gearing towards the ODESUR Games,” explains Olfos. “It is a project that started in 2011 and is now starting to show its benefits.”
“We have had a lot of help from the Chilean Olympic Committee and that we managed to return their faith is very important,” added the former national sevens and fifteens representative who has been running the sevens side since 2007.
12 teams will head to the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with a chance of qualifying as a core side on the HSBC Sevens World Series: Chile, Uruguay, Japan, Hong Kong, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Russia, Italy, the Cook Islands, American Samoa, Zimbabwe and Tunisia.