HAMILTON, New Zealand — Canada’s men had a rough start at the HSBC New Zealand Sevens on Friday, beaten 34-5 by South Africa and 29-14 by Argentina.
South Africa recorded 29 straight points en route to the opening Pool D win. The Canadians regrouped and put on a better show against Argentina but conceded three late tries.
The ninth-ranked Canadian women tied No. 4 France 12-12 and lost 33-7 to No. 1 Australia before facing No. 10 Japan in Pool B play.
Olivia De Couvreur and Charity Williams scored tries for Canada, which led 7-5 at the half. Olivia Apps added a conversion.
A late converted try by France’s Ian Jason pulled the French even after Williams had extended the Canadian lead to 12-5.
Krissy Scurfield scored for Canada against Australia, which led 14-7 at the half.
South Africa arrived in New Zealand second in the overall men’s standings after three events on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series compared to 13th for the Canadian men, who wrapped up pool play against No. 12 Spain.
Shilton van Wyk scored three tries while Selvyn Davids, Christie Grobbelaar and Shaun Williams added singles for South Africa, which led 19-5 at the half. Ricardo Duarttee kicked two conversions.
Captain Phil Berna scored Canada’s lone try.
Elias Ergas and Jake Thiel scored tries for Canada against Argentina, which downed Spain 20-5 in its opener. Brock Webster added two conversions.
Argentina came out hitting hard but it was Canada that scored first as Ergas touched down after a quick tap by Thomas Isherwood following an Argentine penalty for not rolling away.
The South Americans led 14-7 at the half after converted tries by German Schulz and Agustin Fraga, with a powerful run by Rodrigo Isgro setting up Fraga’s go-ahead try on the stroke of halftime.
Thiel pulled Canada even early in the second half after a pretty passing play that started with one Canadian unintentionally booting the ball to another after an Argentine knock-on.
Marcos Moneta, the 2021 World Rugby’s Men’s Sevens Player of the Year, put Argentina ahead 19-14 after taking a nifty over-the-shoulder pass from Luciano Gonzalez near the Canadian try-line. Fraga added to the lead after being set up by Moneta, who used his speed with the clock winding down to outpace a Canadian and chase down a kick for one last try.
In the opener, the South Africa men struck early after Canada was penalized at the breakdown following the opening kickoff. The Blitzboks opted for a scrum and van Wyk raced down the blindside for the try.
Canada responded with a fine team try set up by a linebreak from Matt Oworu, who fed Isherwood to keep the play alive. Berna capped off the stylish attack to tie it at 5-5.
It was all South Africa after that.
The Canadian men finished 14th in both Dubai and Cape Town after opening the season with a 10th-place showing in Hong Kong. After losing to Fiji in the Hong Kong quarterfinals, South Africa won in Dubai and finished fourth in Cape Town.
Canada is looking to escape the relegation zone under the World Series’ new format in the 11-stop 2023 season.
The 15th-ranked core team following the 10th round in Toulouse in May will be relegated. The teams ranked 12th, 13th and 14th at the end of the Toulouse event will take part in a four-team relegation playoff together with the 2023 Challenger Series winner in the final stop of the season in London.
The relegation playoff will be round-robin format with the top two teams then playing a final. The winner will become 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.
Injuries prompted Canada women’s coach Jack Hanratty to call in reinforcements for the New Zealand tournament. Canada was reduced to eight players on the final day of play last month at the South Africa Sevens, where it finished eighth.
Julia Greenshields, Breanne Nicholas, Florence Symonds and Keyara Wardley, all injured in South Africa, missed out on the trip to New Zealand.
Australia won the opening event of the season in Dubai and was runner-up to New Zealand in South Africa.
Maddy Grant and Alysha Corrigan make the transition from the 15s national team. Pamphinette Buisa, part of the Canadian Olympic sevens squad in Tokyo, and Chloe Daniels return to the sevens roster.
Buisa and Daniels were also part of the Canadian 15s team at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where Canada finished fourth in November.
After New Zealand, the Canadian men and women head to Australia for the Jan. 27-29 HSBC Sydney Sevens.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2023.
The Canadian Press