After a rocky road in the 2022-23 HSBC World Series season, home field next month at B.C. Place can’t come quick enough for the Langford-based Canadian men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams.
It is not yet statistically assured, but is getting there and is pretty much a certainty in every other way, that the Canadian women’s squad will have to take the long route to Paris 2024.
The team has never had to go through the North American/Caribbean qualifier for the Olympics since the sport was introduced into the Games, each time taking the most direct route to Rio and Tokyo, by placing in the top four in the immediate previous HSBC World Series seasons.
That run is in serious jeopardy with Canada in 10th place heading into the fifth-stop Sydney Sevens in Australia. Canada placed ninth in Sydney by going 0-3 in the group stage, losing 14-12 to the U.S., 34-7 to Fiji and 19-5 to Great Britain before rallying Saturday to beat Spain 27-10 and Brazil 24-21 on the consolation side.
Four World Series events remain, including the Canada Sevens from March 3-5 at B.C. Place. The top four placings, for direct qualification to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, seem out of reach as the rest of the world has not only caught up but surpassed the 2016 Rio Olympic bronze-medallist Canadian program.
Three University of Victoria Vikes players — two current in Krissy Scurfield and Renee Gonzalez and one alumna in Tokyo Olympian Pamphinette Buisa — were part of the Canadian team in Australia.
Langford-based Canada was No. 14 on the men’s side heading into Sydney and was resigned to knowing it will not be in the top four of the season World Series standings and will have to go through the North American/Caribbean Olympics qualifier in order to get to Paris 2024.
There is the added pressure of having to place in the top 11 just to remain on the World Series circuit for next season.
It did not go well for the men Down Under as Canada lost 24-19 in the opener and then 22-7 to Australia and 33-5 to Great Britain, to go 0-3 in group play, and was downed 35-14 by Tonga on the consolation side Saturday and was to play Spain for 13th place at press time.
The 25-year-old Thiel twins from James Bay Athletic Association, Jake and Josh, are a feature on the Canadian roster in Sydney.
Jake Thiel is one of the few returning veterans from Canada’s quarter-finalist team in the Tokyo Olympics and a role model for the players on the re-tooling Canadian squad.
The Castaways Wanderers of Oak Bay are represented in Sydney with Anton Ngongo and Josiah Morra. Jarvis Dashkewytch is from the UVic Vikes and D’Shawn Bowen and Dawson Fatoric from Island-based Pacific Pride. Fatoric scored his first career senior national try in his World Series debut in Sydney.