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UVic Vikes players feature as Canada names rosters for Hong Kong Sevens

Two World Series events remain to solidify the women’s Paris Olympic and men’s Olympic-qualifying rosters, beginning next weekend in Hong Kong
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Pamhinette Buisa, left, practises before a Sevens tournament at Starlight Stadium in Langford in April 2022. The former UVic Vikes player and 2020 Tokyo Olympian is on the squad for the upcoming Hong Kong Sevens event. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The University of Victoria Vikes rugby program has provided options as Canadian coaches continue to adjudicate their roster choices in an Olympic year.

The Canadian women’s and men’s sevens teams are based in Langford. The Canadian women have qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics this summer by winning the North American and Caribbean qualifying tournament last year at Starlight Stadium.

The Canadian men placed second to the U.S. in its North American and Caribbean qualifier last August at Starlight and are preparing for the last-chance Paris Olympics qualifier to be held in Monaco on June 21-23.

Two World Series events remain to solidify the women’s Paris Olympic and men’s Olympic-qualifying rosters, beginning next weekend in the venerable and colourfully raucous Hong Kong Sevens. The Canadian rosters for Hong Kong were announced on Friday.

Former UVic Vikes player and 2020 Tokyo Olympian Pamphinette Buisa and current UVic player Shalaya Valenzuela draw back into the Canadian women’s squad for Hong Kong after missing the last stretch of World Series events. UVic standout Krissy Scurfield has been a regular this season in World Series tournaments, and is also selected for Hong Kong and looks to be a lock for the Olympic team. So does Sophie De Goede of Victoria, captain of the national women’s XVs team, who is also selected for Hong Kong.

“We are proud of what we have accomplished this season, but we know that there is still huge room to grow as we look to guarantee our spot in the [World Series] Grand Final in Madrid while also building to be at our best at the Paris Olympic Games,” Canadian women’s head coach Jack Hanratty said in a statement.

The Canadian women’s team is ranked No. 5 in the world and is in the conversation when it comes to potential podium finishers in Paris.

“Every player in our program, regardless of who is named to the travelling roster, has continued to demonstrate commitment and focus,” said Hanratty.

Morgan Di Nardo, who captained the Canada Under-18 team in the Youth Commonwealth Games, draws into the Canadian men’s squad following an outstanding freshman season at UVic in which the rising Vikes player was named Canada West tournament first-team all-star.

“It’s always special when players earn the opportunity to gain their first cap in our program,” Canadian men’s head coach Sean White of Victoria said in a statement.

“Morgan Di Nardo has been a standout player with UVic this season and we are happy to have a relationship with UVic, allowing him to join us during a pivotal time in their season and in his school year.”

Also named for Hong Kong is Matt Percellier of Victoria.

The Canadian women have been drawn into Group C for Hong Kong alongside Japan, Spain and the U.S.

The Canadian men are in a very difficult Group A with Australia, France and two-time Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic-champion Fiji.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com