Rugby in Guyana is continuing on an upward trajectory after a successful recent trip to Trinidad to kick off the 2024 Rugby Americans North (RAN) XVs Men’s Tournament.

The nail-biting match resulted in a win (24-23) for Guyana against a strong home side; an epic way to kick off the Tournament and to mark Guyana’s official return to fifteens since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Team Guyana’s Captain, Jamal Angus, says the win was a huge morale boost for the young team who fought until the very end to secure the victory over Trinidad and Tobago.

“Trinidad were heavy favorites to win that match,” he says. “And, being our first game back in a long time, it was huge for us to go out there and get that result. It was a real moment of ‘Guyana are back playing rugby, and we are back looking to win’.”

To add to this, Guyana was also impressively represented at RAN XVs with two Guyanese match officials selected to oversee both the Barbados versus St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Jamaica versus Bermuda matches, which Jamal says is testament to the steady development of rugby that is currently taking place in his country.

He says that rugby in Guyana is now in a ‘rebuilding phase’, particularly as it relates to the U19s and Women’s programs, and the Men’s team are now making their preparations to host the fifteens rematch against Trinidad and Tobago on June 22.

Who is Captain Jamal?

Jamal Angus started playing rugby in 2011 at the age of 17-years-old.

“I was introduced to rugby purely by happenstance,” he says. “I just happened to pass and see a bunch of guys playing a sport that was foreign to me and I was very much interested. Even though I didn’t have the right clothes or anything, I ended up playing that day in just my boxers and a vest, and barefoot! Since then, I’ve been hooked and I can’t seem to shake it.”

The 30-year-old has played in every NACRA/RAN tournament that Guyana has taken part in since 2014. First, in the fifteens, and later in sevens in 2017 in Mexico.

Over the course of his career, Jamal has represented two clubs locally: the UG Wolves, and the Panthers – who he still plays for.

Jamal has also represented Guyana in the U19s, as well as now in the senior National Team, where he has been Captain for the past five years for both the sevens and fifteens.

“One of my biggest career highlights was my senior home debut against Barbados,” he says. “It was my first time playing in front of the home crowd, which included my family. I ended up scoring two tries and it was one of my most memorable moments in rugby yet. Another huge milestone for me was when I was first selected as National Captain. It is such an honor to represent my country and to be selected to play internationally and I hope to continue to be able to play at this level for as long as possible.”

Rugby in Guyana

Jamal says rugby in Guyana is growing in all areas, however it first became prominent through the sevens format.

“We really started dominating in the region in the sevens from about 2006 to 2016,” he says. “And, we proudly still hold the most titles for a Caribbean country. In 2014, we also had our sole XVs title when we defeated USA South in Atlanta.”

He says currently the focus is on rebuilding rugby in Guyana, which took a hard knock during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are working on getting our U19s program back,” he says. “During COVID, it was difficult because we obviously had to stop going into the schools and so the U19s program took a hit, as did our Women’s program, so we are really looking to resuscitate both of these now. We are already making great progress, having sent the U19s Team to the games in Trinidad last year and we are committed to keeping the momentum going strong.”

Jamal says that one of the major focuses is also on the preparations for the highly anticipated XVs rematch against Trinidad at the end of the month.

“Right now, we have our sights firmly set on this upcoming match against Trinidad for the XVs,” he says. “We want to win. We are working towards establishing a more structured style of play that is less reactive so that we have the competitive edge to take out another victory.”

After this upcoming fifteens showdown, Jamal says Rugby Guyana will be gearing back into their usual sevens league to guide them into their preparations for the November RAN Sevens Tournament, which will also act as the qualifier for the 2025 HSBC Challenger Series, where he says Guyana will again be looking to get some more wins on the board.

What Does the Future Hold?

When asked about the future of rugby in Guyana, Jamal says he is looking forward to team being able to experience playing a higher standard of rugby through getting back into the Challenger Series next year.

“T­he boys played there in 2018 against the likes of Colombia, Paraguay, and Mexico, and I think that was the highest level of XVs we have ever played,” he says. “Playing at that level of rugby is very important experience for us in order to improve our game and we need more of that so we can continue to grow.”

He says he is also keen to see the younger local players get back into the sport through the U19s program.

“The U19s is really the pipeline that feeds into the senior teams,” he says. “For the years that we were dominant, there was a clear link between the U19s and the senior teams, so I am looking forward to getting that back on track so that we can build a solid foundation and larger player pool in Guyana.”

And, when asked about his vision for rugby in Guyana, Jamal says:

“My major vision for rugby in Guyana is just growth; growth to put ourselves back up to the level that we once were at. I’m just looking forward to really progressing rugby in Guyana – to more tournaments, more games at the higher level, and also a stronger investment from our local Government and private sector to help get us back on our feet to where we need to be. Given the right support, I know we can show the region we are a really strong team and that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Stay tuned to RAN channels for details on how to stream match sevens of the RAN XVs wit Guyana hosting Trinidad & Tobago at the Guyana Defense Force Playing Field on Saturday, June 22. Kick off is set for 3:00 PM local time.