Brazil made their renewed international rugby intentions very clear at the Estádio do Nacional on Saturday when with the Webb Ellis Cup in attendance they beat Paraguay 35-22 under extreme heat in Sao Paulo.
With this win, Brazil advances to the next stage of the Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying process and confirms their place in the 2013 South American Championship with against Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. They also extend their domination over Paraguay, having not lost to them since 2008.
Earlier this year, the proactive Confederaçao Brasileira de Rugby went into partnership with the Canterbury Rugby Football Union – whose provincial side won New Zealand’s national provincial championship the ITM Cup a few hours earlier – to assist them with High Performance plans.
Former All Black Scott Robertson and Brent Frew coached them in Chile earlier this year, yet the programme had only just started. Now, after six months of consultancy, coaching talent coming and going from Christchurch and the plan already operational, it was noticeable how much better Brazil are since it all started.
“For this game we were able to have more camps, a trial and see a lot more players from all over the country before selecting the squad,” said Frew, who was in charge of the Tupis in Sao Paulo. “We have seen some really interesting talent and the win was important to show the players that they have to be confident in their abilities.”
The final score might have flattered the Paraguayan Yacarés, who despite fighting throughout the game were never really in a position to threaten the eventual winners.
An early try by wing Erick Cogliandro, after a very neat chip and chase, put the home side in the lead in front of the biggest ever home crowd, in excess of 6,000 spectators.
Soon after, scrum half Felipe Claro ran through a gap in the midfield and unopposed touched down under the posts for an early 12-0 lead, which could have been bigger had Brazil taken their opportunities.
Right before the very necessary water-break – with the temperature well into the 30s – Paraguayan centre Gerard Cuttier reduced the deficit with a penalty.
The heat took its toll and the match became somewhat muddled until Moisés Duque scored his team’s third try. The youngest of the Duque brothers, he flew in from Blagnac, in France’s Federale 1 Division, to play this match. Nick Smith, the very good number 8, was also brought back for this Test from Stockport.
Paraguay closed the gap again when Juan Gómez scored almost on half time to send his side in trailing 19-10 at the break.
That lead was narrowed to 19-13 after a penalty by Martín Ortíz, but Brazil were soon on the attack and in three minutes scored twice, with Cogliandro and Claro getting their second tries before the 47th minute.
A star in the making
Soon after, Brazil went into damage control and only added points with three penalties, not being able to make a dent when Paraguay were down to 14 after a sin bin.
With 25 minutes to play, 19 year old scrum half Bruno García came on for his Test debut with Frew labelling him “a star in the making”. With more matches, which the Tupis will soon start to play, the likes of García and a number of young players being introduced to the High Performance plans will aim for a place in, they all hope, Japan 2019.
Another Test debutant was Federico Anselmi who two weeks ago, in his second season as an HSBC Sevens World Series referee, handled the Gold Coast final. The Argentine referee had a solid match, dishing out two deserved yellow cards – one per team – and handling the hard-fought encounter as a veteran.
In the last move of the match, a Paraguayan maul dropped in the in-goal and the television match official – used for the first time ever in Brazil – confirmed that number 8 Felix Zárate had indeed scored for what would be a converted try.
“This win is very important for us as a team as it will give us more opportunities in the future and it confirms that we are on the right track,” said veteran captain Daniel Gregg.
After 12 seasons in the national team, he is enjoying the benefits of a new plan that could, in the future, take Brazilian rugby to new heights.