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Uruguay add Munich to overall Challenger Series championship win

By Ian Cameron
Diego Ardao lifts the trophy for Uruguay in Munich Credit: Mike Lee

Uruguay’s men’s Sevens side added the Munich leg of the Challenger Series to their overall series victory, defeating tournament hosts Germany in a tense 21-19 final in the Bavarian capital.

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Tries from Felipe Arcos Perez, captain Diego Ardao and Juan González were ultimately enough to see off a super-motivated Germany in a packed-out Dantestadion to the north of the city centre.

Germany didn’t go down without a fight in front of their home crowd, with a 5-pointer from Luis Diel and a brace from star winger Makonnen Amekuedi taking them to within two points of the South Americans.

Uruguay now qualifies as the top seed for the HSBC SVNS promotion play-off in Madrid later this year. Germany, Kenya and Chile also qualify for Madrid.

“I feel proud of the team, very proud of the team, of our staff, and of our friends that stayed at home but were in the team,” said skipper Diego Ardao. “We trained very hard. We worked for it and we achieved our goals, that was being champions here and achieving qualification for Madrid. So I’m extremely happy and mostly as I said, I’m very proud of the team.

“Our first aim was to be in Madrid. Now that we are in Madrid, we want to be in those quarter-finals with whatever team is opposite us, and we need that victory. We need to win that game, so that we can go again in the series.”

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Making the HSBC SVNS top flight is a massive carrot for this Uruguayan side.

“It would be confirmation that we are a great nation in rugby. We had already been there last year. It was a pity that we had to be relegated, but those were the rules and as I said, we need to confirm that we are a great nation of rugby, so we want to be there in the series again.”

Ardao poignantly held up a number 10 jersey as they posed for pictures with the cup. “The jersey is of our teammate [Baltazar Amaya] who had an injury in his nose. He had a broken nose in the first game. He’s a very valuable player for us, he’s a great friend and we’re missing him. He had to take a flight back to Uruguay to have an operation on his nose. He couldn’t be in the final or any of the other games, so that’s why we put his shirt there.”

Chile lost their third-place play-off with Hong Kong China, but crucially qualified for the play-offs.

“We are really happy about that [qualifying for Madrid], but I think we could have left Munich with a better feeling as a team,” said Nicolas Garafulic. “We lost two guys on the way. We hope they get better so we go with a full team, but happy for being in Madrid overall.

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Chile’s Nicolas Garafulic is congratulated by a coach. Credit: Mike Lee

“We talked about attitude. At this level, attitude is not enough. We need to see what the deal is with that… we have with individuals that are getting the team in this situation, in the matches that we lost.”

Chile can now look forward to competing at the far larger venue of Atletico Madrid’s Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano.

“We went on Sunday to Allianz Arena, it’s amazing here. So there I was trying to imagine what Madrid is going to be. I went with my team to the Rugby World Cup recently, I know how it works, but it’s all about the pitch. There’s always lots of people shouting, all the crowd, all the fans, but once the game starts, the game can be equally hard if you can play with no people, or as with a big crowd.”

Kenya’s Vincent Onyala told RugbyPass after beating Uganda in the 5th place play-off in Munich that: “We are definitely happy, because with beating Uganda now, we have sealed our top four. Now we just wait to see what Madrid has for us. Hopefully we’ll get there and build on our little moments then see ourselves back in the HSBC SVNS Series.

“It will be big. Our programme will grow. The boys that are coming in will experience what it means to play with the best and we’ll build on from there.”

Kenya hands down had the best support in Munich, Germany running a close second.

Challenger Series Uruguay Kenya
Kenya players celebrate with their vocal supporters.

“I can remember playing Germany, they had the home advantage but you could see with our crowd, it was like we had the home advantage. And it just gives us the mood to play and always give our best and represent our country.

“Rugby has grown globally and having the Challenger Series to boost the world series brings the competition and just grows the game as a whole.”

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