The 66-7 scoreline Tuesday in the 2019 World Cup affirmed the wide gap in rugby pedigree between Canada and South Africa.
Even at that, however, the 47-0 first-half deficit against the Springboks bordered on the embarrassing for the Langford-based Canadian team before a capacity crowd of 30,132 at Kobe Misaki Stadium.
The first-half disaster concluded with Canada driving to the goal-line before second-row player Josh Larsen of Parksville was red-carded for carelessly barrelling into the maul from behind.
But Canada turned in a spirited 14-player second half which garnered praise.
“It was a tough shift in the first half. But in the second half, the boys manned up admirably,” said Canadian head coach Kingsley Jones.
“We changed tactics, to account for the 14 players, more than anything. But the players stuck in there. For 20 to 25 minutes of that second half, it was 7-7.”
South Africa is now 3-0 all-time against Canada, including the brawl-scarred 20-0 victory at Port Elizabeth in the 1995 World Cup.
Canada’s lone try Tuesday came in the second half when veteran scrum-half Phil Mack of Victoria passed off to Matt Heaton of Montreal for the converted try.
Backfield great DTH van der Merwe, the all-time Canadian tries leader who has been followed to Japan by a large supporters group of family and friends from the Island, played in his Canadian-record 15th World Cup game. Born and raised in South Africa to age 17 before his family moved to Canada, van der Merwe said he is proud of both his South African roots and to be Canadian.
The Canadian camp, however, wants to focus on what’s ahead and not look back.
“There were a lot of positive but we have to close the book on that one and move forward quickly,” said Jones.
The game concluded a brutal back-to-back set against two of the premier rugby nations in the world, which began with the 63-0 loss to the New Zealand All Blacks last week in Oita.
Canada opened with a 48-7 loss to Italy and must now target winless fellow-minnow Namibia for a victory in the final pool game on Saturday (8:15 p.m. on TSN).
“It’s a short window, with the challenge of a lot of travel, with the short preparation time,” said Jones, the former Welsh international, who resides in Sooke
“But we don’t want excuses. It would be great if we finish with a win. We’re going to try to do our best against a team [Namibia] that is a similar level to us.”
The final game is at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate prefecture. It promises to be a unique occasion on several levels in a rugby-mad small town that was flattened by the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami and since rebuilt. Victoria’s sister city Morioka is the capital of Iwate prefecture, and there are Canadian-themed events planned by the local organizing committee leading up to the game because of that connection.
The Canadians hope it is memorable on the pitch, as well.