On the same day as the Springboks were bounced from the Rugby World Cup their rugby league counterparts the Rhinos squared the card for South Africa with a surprise 36-22 win against Canada in Toronto. The visitors scored first early on and led 16-10 at the halftime break behind three first half tries to Canada’s two. Although not much was known about them prior to the match, the South Africans, #26 on the new RLIF world rankings, proved to be big and fast and tough as nails.
South Africa’s better overall fitness also turned out to be a telling factor late in the piece when Canada began to show signs of tiring. Despite a brace by Canadian fullback Robin Legault, the Rhinos eventually outscored the Wolverines by seven tries to four to clinch the victory. South Africa was never headed. The closest Canada got was to trail 22-26 when they scored their final try in the 68th minute, but two more South African tries in the final 10 minutes sealed the deal.
The South African offense was led by Stevie Myer, who bagged a pair of tries. Other scorers included Rupert Wells, Christo Louw, Johan Fritz, Hans du Plessis and Christof Swanepoel. Francois Greyvensteyn converted all of the tries. “Great game, tough opposition,” South African head coach Steven van Zyl told WeAreRugby. “Very physical, good confidence booster for the World Cup Qualifiers.”
Apart from Legault’s two-try effort, other Canadians to get on the board were Geoff Bylund and Enoch Wamalwa. Kale Hutchings booted two conversions, while Graham Dobbs slotted another. Going into the game, the 21st-ranked Canadians were unbeaten at home this season.
“I don’t think it was a shock at all,” remarked Canada Rugby League chairman Eric Perez. “The standard of rugby union is really high there and their guys could get union contracts if they wanted to but they’re committed to rugby league. “It was probably the most exciting game of the year for us.”
The match was a warm-up for South Africa, which now moves on to the Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers in Philadelphia starting next week.
The Rhinos clash with the hosts USA Tomahawks first up on Saturday, October 15.