An international competition and a club competition, both featuring 12 teams, will run side by side at the Punta del Este Sevens in Uruguay this weekend with a place in the fifth and sixth rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Las Vegas and Vancouver available to the top-ranked team excluding Argentina. They will also go forward along with the second-best team to the World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 Qualifier in Hong Kong.
Six teams from South America and six from North America and Europe will contest the first sevens title on offer in 2019, with the Viña del Mar Sevens following on as part of the Sudamérica Rugby Sevens circuit.
Pool A will be spearheaded by the USA, with Germany, Chile and Paraguay completing the line-up. Current series champions South Africa's development team will compete in Pool B with Russia, hosts Uruguay and Colombia, with Los Pumas Sevens tackling Canada, Portugal and Brazil in Pool C as they look to fine-tune preparations ahead of the upcoming series tournaments in Hamilton and Sydney.
In the build-up to the eagerly-awaited 30th-anniversary tournament, Sudamérica Rugby’s Head of High Performance Daniel Hourcade will be speaking to fans and coaches. Dr Marcelo Santurio, from the Uruguay Rugby Union, will make a presentation on Player Welfare and there will be Get Into Rugby activities.
The brainchild of the Montevideo British Schools Old Boys’ members Juan Cat, Martín Guerra, Pedro Bordaberry and Gabriel Varela, the Punte del Este Sevens began in 1989.
Much work has been done behind the scenes to make this the best tournament yet, as tournament director Santiago Cat explained. “We have been working since May, talking about the responsibility we have as a club, finding people to take on roles ahead of this important milestone,” he said.
Cat, who played in a handful of tournaments himself in the 1990s, hails from a family with strong links to Uruguayan rugby – his grandfather Charlie Cat founded the Uruguayan Rugby Union and his father Carlos played for and coached the national team.
He can even recall how the Punte Del Este Sevens first arose. “I can remember everything, even the meetings to organise it, although I was not part of it. Then came the time to play and I was fortunate to share the field with some of the best players in the world. In 1995, I even played (as an injury reserve) for Australia in the final against Los Pumas!”
In those early tournaments, individual stars and then national teams started flooding to one of South America's top summer resorts. Players such as Simon Poidevin, Jason Little, Walter Little, Frank Bunce, Jonah Lomu, Waisale Serevi and Eric Rush all loved to travel there in the Uruguayan summer.
“With little television at the time, the only place where you could see these stars was at the Campus or the beach. It was very moving. We are still in touch with many of them, mostly Eric Rush and Waisale Serevi, who we were planning to invite anyway but now he'll be coming as coach of Russia,” said Cat.
Club member Chocho Varela, a friend of Serevi, who worked tirelessly to make the tournament the success it is over the years sadly died in 2018 and his contribution will be remembered this weekend.