After being dethroned as the kings of NACRA Sevens rugby by Mexico last year, the national team’s main goal this year is to recover its title.
In an interview with Stabroek Sport yesterday, National Captain Ryan Gonsalves said regaining the NACRA Sevens title, organizing more club tournaments and securing a permanent sponsor are the team’s top three priorities.
“There was a lot of personnel changes in our squad last year and we missed several key players but that is no excuse for losing our title, but losing last year will be motivation for us, this year, to regain what we feel is ours,” Gonsalves declared. “We know where we went wrong and we are back to the drawing board to rectify our problems and regaining the NACRA Sevens crown is a top priority,” he added.
According to Gonsalves, “Players who were in the squad in Canada are very much motivated to do much better this year because having the bitter end of the stick in 2012 left a bad taste in our mouths, so we will definitely be using last year’s disappointment as motivation. We will be more fit, focused and hungry this time around.”
The national captain of the six-time NACRA champions noted that since his side no longer rules the regional rugby kingdom they will have to train like underdogs in order to unseat the new and improved champions.
“This year, we should be very competitive because we have a lot of work to do… Mexico is above us now; they are playing all over the world and improving rapidly, so we will have to back ourselves and play to the best of our abilities and train hard,” he said.
Gonsalves posited that with support from permanent sponsors, the team would be better equipped to regain its title. “The union is trying to get permanent sponsors on board so that we would be able to tour and compete in international tournaments, that way we would be better equipped on the international stage. This year we will be focusing on the Caribbean Championships as well as the qualification for the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
He further noted that, “If we do get some sponsors on board this will enable us to get a full strength team which is made up of key overseas players like Kevin McKenzie (Australia-based) and Buttsy (Claudius Butts, Trinidad and Tobago based).
Gonsalves said that “The sport has been doing well over the years and even though we lost last year, we still did well in [terms of] keeping the flag flying high…in Hong Kong and Las Vegas.”
“We [brought] a lot of recognition to this small nation so hopefully sponsors can come on board and have a partnership and invest in us because this team has what it takes to make Guyana proud,” he said.
Regarding the domestic season, the national captain said that “For 2013 we will be looking to get cracking on our club tournaments domestically to highlight a lot of emerging talents because the more club rugby we have the better preparation we will have this season.”
“Every year the local rugby seasons starts with the Banks Sevens in March and after that we go into 15s, then 10s then Sevens again so I know we will have some domestic tournaments which will highlight some fresh talent,” he said.
Mexico placed third overall behind Canada and the USA in the NACRA World Cup Qualifiers last year in Ottawa, Canada en route to winning their first NACRA title. Guyana was defeated 17-14 by Mexico in the quarterfinals which ended the hopes of the team lifting its seventh consecutive title.