June 15th, 2024

Canadian men put up a fight but fall 12-0 to South Africa in opener at L.A. Sevens

By The Canadian Press on February 25, 2023.

Captains of the 16 competing teams pose ahead of the Los Angeles Sevens, which opened play Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park. Canada captain Phil Berna is second from the right in the top row. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-World Rugby **MANDATORY CREDIT**

CARSON, Calif. – Canada put up some stiff resistance before dropping a 12-0 decision to South Africa in pool play Saturday at the Los Angeles Sevens.

South Africa has beaten Canada in 30 of the last 31 meetings, with the one defeat coming in 2020 at the Canada Sevens when Canada won 26-19 to finish third.

The Blitzboks, who stand second in the HSBC World Rugby Seven Series overall standings compared to No. 14 for Canada, have won the U.S. tournament five times although they finished a disappointing 13th last year.

The field at Dignity Health Sports Park was wet after a morning shower, making for difficult handling conditions.

A Jake Thiel try for Canada in the first half was waved off after video review showed the Canadian’s leg was out of bounds before he touched the ball down.

Christie Grobbelaar eventually put South Africa on the board on the stroke of halftime after a linebreak by Ricardo Duarttee that started near the Blitzboks try-line.

Canada threatened midway through the second half but the attack fizzled when it was penalized at the breakdown.

Canada’s Josiah Morra was yellow-carded late in the game with South Africa taking advantage after a scrum as Duarttee sliced through the Canadian defence with the man advantage for a converted try and 12-0 lead.

Canada faced No. 9 Ireland and No. 11 Uruguay later Saturday.

Andrew Smith scored after the hooter to give Ireland a 7-0 win over Uruguay in the other early Pool B game.

The L.A. tournament is the sixth stop on the men’s World Series. Next up is the March 3-5 Canada Sevens, for both men and women, in Vancouver.

Down in the standings, the Canadian men are in danger of relegation.

The World Series is reducing the number of men’s core teams for the 2024 season from 16 to 12, to equal the number of women’s teams and align with the Olympic competition structure.

The 15th-ranked core team following the 10th round in Toulouse on May 12-14 will be relegated. The teams ranked 12th, 13th and 14th at the end of Toulouse will enter a four-team relegation playoff together with the Challenger Series 2023 winners at the 11th and final round of the Series in London on May 20-21.

The relegation playoff will be a round-robin format with the top two teams meeting in the final. The winner becomes the 12th core team on the 2024 Series, while the other three teams will enter their respective Regional Sevens Championships in order to qualify for the 2024 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.

The top four men’s and women’s teams at the end of the season will qualify automatically for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The New Zealand men currently top the table, ahead of South Africa, Samoa and France.

The Canadian women currently stand 10th in the standings.

The Canadian men are coming off a 15th-place finish in Sydney, Australia, where they lost all five outings, beaten in pool play by Argentina (24-19), Australia (22-7) and Britain (33-5) before falling 35-14 to Tonga, an invitational team, and 17-14 to Spain in consolation play.

They were 14th in New Zealand, Dubai and Cape Town after opening the season with a 10th-place finish in Hong Kong.

L.A. sees the return from injury of Alex Russell and Kratz who last played for Canada at the Cape Town Sevens in December.

Interim Canada coach Sean White called up Matt Percillier and Jack Carson for the first time this season. They both earned their first caps for the sevens team in September 2021 in Vancouver.

The 21-year-olds have been granted a short-term release from UBC to join the Canadian team in L.A. and Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2023.

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