The second round of the men’s World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024 takes place in Montevideo this weekend (8-10 March) and the good news is that all action will be streamed live by RugbyPass TV.

Following their win in the opening round in Dubai in January, Kenya top the standings on 20 points with beaten finalists Chile in second on 18.

Chile’s South American rivals Uruguay claimed the bronze medal in Dubai and are third, on 16 points, while Europe’s leading representative Germany are two points further back in fourth.

As things stand, those four teams will compete with the bottom-four teams at the end of HSBC SVNS 2024 for the four available places in SVNS 2025 at a standalone tournament in Madrid, on 31 May to 2 June.

Before then, though, a lot can change, especially as there is another round of the Challenger Series to play in Munich on 18-19 May.

While Germany will be looking to make the most of playing on home turf then, this weekend it is the turn of Uruguay to feel the benefit.

“It's all 10 minutes from my house,” begins the eloquent Diego Ardao, captain of a tight-knit Uruguayan team.

“The positives of being hosts are obvious: you play with your fans, family, friends; that support empowers you.”

Furthermore, he adds: “You don't travel, you don't have physical fatigue, jet-lag is not an issue. We have been training well, you gain training days without needing to recover. The food doesn't change, you have everything within reach, you know the surroundings by heart.”

“Every game is a final”

Having finished in third place in Dubai and needing to be among the top-four best at the end of the three-round Challenger Series, the importance of a good result this weekend is not lost on the newly-qualified doctor.

Uruguay have been drawn in a strong-looking Pool C with Germany, Uganda and Papua New Guinea.

Los Teros beat Papua New Guinea 41-14 in pool play before edging Germany in the bronze medal match, 12-7.

“We played against Papua New Guinea in Dubai. We have to get the ball from them, they compete well, with an offload game; they are dynamic and with possession that can disorganise you. We won 41-14 but without the ball it was difficult for us. We must have the ball,” he says, bluntly.

Then comes Uganda. “They’re similar to PNG but a higher standard: stronger, more agile, tougher, braver. Again, we have to have the ball. They have skills. You have to score points at every opportunity.”

Germany are Uruguay’s final pool phase opponents and Ardao knows they’ll have to be at their best to repeat the win in Dubai.

“They’re a mentally tough opponent, who always demands a lot from you as a team.

“We beat them in Dubai, but we have to play calmly because we gave them opportunities and received two yellow cards.

“All rivals are difficult – we can't be over-confident, but we have to trust ourselves. We will apply the old cliché: every game is a final,” he adds.

“The goal is to be champions. We have to finish third or higher, a little higher.”

Having tasted the 2023 world series as a core team, Uruguay want to be back among the elite.

Los Teros Sevens picked up some good results and reached the quarter-finals twice, in Cape Town and Singapore, but, ultimately, they finished one point short of safety and ended up being relegated to the Challenger Series after failing to win the SVNS 2024 qualification tournament.

How they lost their place at the highest level of the game will be the source of much motivation, especially as many of players are still involved now and the pain of that setback is still fresh in their memory, Ardao included.

“I left satisfied, happy and grateful for what I experienced and what the group did,” he says, phlegmatically.

“It hurt me how it happened: we were close and it got away from us in the last two stages. But I'm super proud of how we performed throughout the season.”

Shujaa hand debuts to trio

That was then, and this is now.

The opening Challenger tournament gave every team involved a good idea of the high standard of competition across the board.

Backing up their success in Dubai won’t be easy for Kenya, who have travelled to South America with a good mix of youth and experience.

Kenya Sevens head coach Kevin Wambua has made five changes to the squad, with three debutants – Lamec Ambetsa, Chrisant Ojwang, and Elvis Olukusi – included in the group.

The Shujaa also welcome back more seasoned campaigners in Dennis Abukuse and Ben Salem.

Dubai top try-scorer, Patrick Odongo, is still absent through injury.

Kenya line up in Pool A with Georgia, Portugal and Tonga, the champions in 2023.

Inaugural Challenger Series winners and serial world series team, Japan, are in Pool B with Chile, Hong Kong China and Mexico, and head coach Simon Amor is looking for further improvement in their performance after a fifth-place finish in Dubai.

“We have been setting a focus on changing our attacking style in the run-up to the Olympics in Paris. [In Dubai] We improved our attacking style and defence every day. In Uruguay, we would like to keep this momentum and make further progress in our playing style," he said. 

The squad has been training in Montevideo since 2 March, so is well settled after a long, 30-hour flight. 

Taiga Ishida, who helped Japan qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, missed the opening round because he was on paternity leave after the birth of his first child, a son, but has travelled to South America.