BARRIO – A blessing in disguise. That’s what losing the final of the Superliga Americana de Rugby (SLAR), South America’s six-team professional league, has proved to be for Chilean rugby.
The professional team of Selknam helped to fine-tune things ahead of their series against the USA, which Chile won to qualify for the Rugby World Cup for the first time ever.
“It really means so much,” he said after the win over the Eagles in Denver. “The sacrifices this group has done, (there were) lots of moments when it really felt uphill, where we kept receiving nothing in return. We kept pushing and finally we get the big reward.
So how did Chile get to this point? What has happened to take them to the final place in Pool D alongside Argentina, England, Japan and Samoa? SLAR is part of it but there is more…
The Head Coach
Selknam’s campaign was a crucial testing ground for Condores head coach Pablo Lemoine. Although not directly involved with Selknam during SLAR, one of his assistants – former Argentina international Nicolás Bruzzone – led the team; Lemoine has been the behind-the-scenes brain.
The Chilean federation is fully committed to the new project. Qualifying for the World Cup should boost their growth; there are more than 15,000 players in the country, from the North to the South, which is a distance of 6,000km.
With an academy system in the biggest cities (Arica, Antofagasta, Viña del Mar, Santiago and Concepción), and two more in the making in Temuco and Puerto Montt, player identification and development will soon provide the next generation. Then at the top level, some 30 senior players get salaries or stipends.