Brazilians in pursuit of Olympic sevens success
The arrival of 41 Brazilians in Christchurch reinforces how innovative New Zealand provincial rugby unions can tap into the emerging sevens market.
With sevens endorsed as an Olympic sport, where men's and women's teams will chase gold in Rio in 2016, several provinces are selling their intellectual property to ambitious international unions and in doing so no longer rely on traditional income streams such as match ticket sales and advertising.
Last year the Brazilian Rugby Union signed a four-year deal with the Christchurch-based International High Performance Unit (IHPU), which shares all their costs and profits with the Canterbury Rugby Football Union and the Crusaders, to assist in coaching their 15s and sevens teams.
The IHPU, who also have also attracted players for a number of other countries to their programmes in recent years, last year increased their income to $528,622 after making $158,905 in 2011.
The Brazilian group currently in Christchurch comprises 32 men's and women's players and nine management members.
Following the two-week camp the men will play a tournament in Dubai, while the female group, which comprises their younger promising players, will return home.
"This is their second visit here and we are trying to help develop the coaches in the technical side of their roles," IHPU boss John Haggart said.
"They are probably past the formative stage and are at a point now that as they increase the numbers of people playing the game they will start to grow. They play on a number of international circuits now and certainly there is a bit more depth in the game."
Brazil, renowned for their football-mad culture, have 13,300 registered and unregistered players and are ranked 34th in the world.
The Brazilians have played in several local tournaments since arriving in Christchurch and are scheduled to return home later this week.
As part of the IHPU deal Chris Neill is currently coaching in Brazil to prepare their senior women's side for the Dubai tournament and will later return home to help the Canterbury men's side get ready for the nationals in Rotorua.
Brent Frew, who has previously worked as a CRFU development officer and is now employed by the IHPU, is coaching the Brazil 15s team.
In an effort to give the best schooling in both disciplines, the 15s and sevens Brazilians teams have been separated.
"What was happening was that the men were playing all-year round and as a result they were picking-up injuries and getting burned-out," Haggart said.
This year the CRFU and Crusaders also signed a memorandum of understanding with Lincoln University to give international student athletes a chance to develop their sevens skills while studying a 12-week English language course.
Taranaki last year confirmed an 18-month contract with China, with the deal understood to be worth around $100,000. The Chinese interest in sevens has been promoted by the army adopting sevens as their chosen sport.
The Bay of Plenty union also have plans to promote themselves as a global centre of sevens excellence and their facilities are already being used as a regular base for the All Blacks Sevens squad.
Recently former All Blacks and Crusaders midfielder Nathan Mauger signed a 12-week deal with the Taiwanese national union to coach their sevens teams and hopes to return on a longer-term contract next year.
The International Rugby Board is expected to put around $270 million into sevens development programmes over the next four years.