The growth of Colombian rugby is such that almost half of the squad that so convincingly defeated Venezuela 53-15 at home to win their fifth South American B Championship on Saturday was flying to Paris the following night as their focus shifts from 15s to sevens with the ultimate goal of reaching their first Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco next year.

Led by their ever-present captain Sebastián Mejía Gil, the growth of rugby in the country is palpable and next year they will need to be ready for their biggest ever challenge as the tournaments in Sudamérica Rugby will be revamped and Colombia will join Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brasil and Paraguay in the new South American Six Nations.

Therefore, winning the South American B Championship was an ideal send-off as they now scale new heights.

“The game against Venezuela was tight, especially in the opening half as they brought the game to us and forced us into errors,” admitted Mejía Gil. “In the second half we played better, did some good things and were happy with our performance and the win.”

Los Tucanes have dominated the last four South American B Championships but found the step up, playing repechage games against Paraguay in the past, including one in the RWC 2019 qualification process last year, too big.

Mejía Gil, though, believes the future is positive for his beloved Colombia.

Hard work paying off

“To play in the new Six Nations, to play against better teams is the essence of the game,” he insisted. “We want to test ourselves against better teams and try to work out ways to beat them, ensuring we get better every time.

“We will be playing against new teams and new approaches which will need some adjustment, but we believe that within three seasons we shall be in a position to win games.”

His team has been crucial in the breakthrough of rugby in their country. Playing numbers have grown for both men and women and the pro-active Federación Colombiana de Rugby is well connected with sponsors and government to ensure that the growth is sustained over the years.

“Colombian rugby has dominated the B Championship the last four seasons because of the development work done and the big support of the Colombian federation focusing on the high performance. To add to that, the core of the squad has been working together for the past seven years and we are seeing the success of the time spent together,” added Mejía Gil. 

Hosting the Bolivarian Games from 11-25 November in the Caribbean city of Santa Marta, Colombia want to have a good tournament at home to enable them to take some momentum into the two-round Sudamérica Rugby Sevens Series in January that will determine the region's two qualifiers for RWC Sevens 2018. 

“Going to Marcoussis is very important in our preparation for the Bolivarian Games and what follows. Having the opportunity to stay there, play against the French and train with them is an incredible opportunity,” concluded Mejía Gil.

Photo: Alejandro Alvarado Galvis