Brazil may be strong favourites to win the Sudamérica Rugby Women's Sevens in Lima this weekend and claim the region's qualification place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but going through the qualifying process is new to them.
Back in 2015, when the region chose its representative for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, As Yarras did not participate as they had qualified automatically as the host nation for the first Games to feature rugby sevens.
Then, in Santa Fe, hosts Argentina looked to be on their way to securing their ticket to Rio. But as an Argentina player was about to score to secure the win, she was pushed over the dead-ball line. Colombia sensed and opportunity and with seconds to go managed to recover a ball and score a try that took them to Rio instead.
“We are always aware that anything can happen,” Isadora Cerrullo, one of Brazil's Olympians in 2016, told World Rugby. “Our mentality is to take care of the job and not let anything to be decided in the last minute. Control as much as possible.”
Cerrullo is one of two players from that 2016 side, together with captain Raquel Kochhann (in the photo, supporting Cerullo), who will be sharing their experience with a younger squad.
“The goal is super clear – we are very focused on winning,” she added. “We want to go to Tokyo.”
Brazilian rugby is on a high at the moment, the team having secured core team status on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2020 after winning the qualifier in Hong Kong in April. A few weeks later they travelled to Langford as the invitational team at the HSBC Canada Women's Sevens and performed well.
“It is all part of a journey we started last year when we failed to qualify for the series. We’ve had a number of tournaments and everyone in the squad has had a taste of international rugby.”
Brazil have a full-time squad of 25 players who work under coach Reuben Samuel, including Bianca Silva who was recently unveiled as one of the 'Unstoppables' in World Rugby's new Women in Rugby #TryAndStopUs campaign.
A key aspect of their continued dominance in their region – they have won every Sudamérica Rugby Women's Sevens they have entered since 2004 – lies in the hard work but in behind the scenes.
“Unfortunately, we had a couple of injuries in Canada, but with everyone in the squad experienced, Reuben managed to select the best available team to go to Peru.”
One of triplets, Cerullo was born in New Jersey to Brazilian parents, brought up in the US and picked up the game at Columbia University.
She moved back to Brazil in 2014 to pursue her international dream, winning bronze in the 2015 Pan American Games before playing in the Olympic Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018.
Brazil have a clear goal and a confident squad to fulfil it, but they won't take any of their opponents for granted with Uruguay and Costa Rica the first to overcome in pool play on Saturday.
“Teams in South America are evolving very well; we view this tournament as another opportunity to test ourselves and see where we are. We hope to have good games.”
Their biggest rival in recent years has been Argentina, with whom they trained for a week before both teams travelled to Hong Kong. There, Brazil escaped with a narrow two-point win, yet in a tournament in Paraguay a few weeks later, the margin in the final was much bigger.
“Argentina always brings a really competitive mix to us. Every time we face them, we know them better. We don’t ever take them lightly. We have to do our job because they never give up.”
The new stadium at Santa María del Triunfo, on the outskirts of Lima, was built for the Pan American Games to be played in July and will provide a legacy for the game in Peru.
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