Hong Kong Sevens

Brazil show heart of a lion on Hong Kong debut

South Americans are outclassed by Asian giants Japan, but their spirited performance will have given them the greatest gift of all: self-belief

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 5:24am

Brazil captain Fernando Portugal points to a saying among his nation's sevens community when asked to sum up the amount of effort players need to put in if they are to play the game.

"We say that we kill a lion every single day to play rugby for Brazil," he said, after his team showed that type of fighting spirit in a 17-10 loss to the more fancied Japanese on the Brazilians' first trip to Hong Kong Stadium.

"They say we are kind of crazy," continued Portugal. "No one in Brazil knows a lot about rugby. The game is still growing but our passion is contagious among the Brazilian people and we think in the next few years they will support us more and more."

No one in Brazil knows a lot about rugby. The game is still growing but our passion is contagious among the Brazilian people
Brazil captain Fernando Portugal

The Olympics in Rio de Janiero will certainly help. Brazil qualify as host nation for sevens' debut at the 2016 Games, meaning, Portugal said, that his teammates were on the verge of living out a dream they never before even dared to have.

With such a small talent pool to draw on - Brazil has around 10,000 registered players across all levels of rugby - squad members in Hong Kong are involved in both the national 15s and sevens set-ups, plus they must all work full-time.

But Portugal is hopeful the situation can change closer to the Games - and being in Hong Kong is a perfect place to start.

"In the next few years our reality will change a little," he said. "We need a higher level of competition. We can't improve just playing in Brazil and playing South American teams.

"We need to do everything we can to get involved in the [sevens] circuit and to develop the level of our game.

"We still need to split between 15s and sevens which is very complicated for us physically. But we are training a lot to prepare a very good team for the Olympics."

Brazil qualified for Hong Kong by finishing second behind Uruguay at the Consur tournament and Portugal said no one in the squad had experienced anything quite like the atmosphere the surrounds a Friday night at the Sevens. But after their first taste of the action, they were all left wanting more.

"It is very important that we play at a higher level, at this professional level," he said. "The noise, this crowd - everything is new for us. This is where we want to be. The fans understand the game. They cheer every good play."

With the Olympics looming, the Brazilian union approached New Zealand's Crusaders organisation 12 months ago and asked for help developing and coaching their players. Hence Kiwi coach Chris Neill is with the squad here and he said he was happy enough with last night's effort.

Japan crossed within 30 seconds, through Sione Faamao Teaupa, but the Brazilians held their nerve before Lucas Duque and then Portugal scored to send them into the break 10-5 up. While there was no more joy for Brazil in the second half, Neill said lessons had been learned.

"We went out there with a real positive approach and we wanted to show the fans that we deserved to be here," he said. "So we tried to bring a little bit of physicality to Japan and to really get in their face.

"[The players] were very nervous, very quiet for most of the day. They are disappointed - which is a good thing - but now they have a little bit of belief."