It’s always a special occasion when an athlete faces the team he or she grew up idolizing. DTH van der Merwe got to live that experience on Tuesday.
Born and raised in South Africa until his family emigrated to Regina when he was 15, van der Merwe never had the opportunity to face the idolized Springboks of his birthplace until the penultimate game of his fourth and final Rugby World Cup. But the leading try scorer in Canadian senior men’s team history could not add to his total in a 66-7 loss.
It was the 15th World Cup game for van der Merwe, the most ever by a Canadian. Unfortunately under the dome in Kobe, Japan, his side was completely outclassed in just the third-ever test-match meeting between the two countries, the first since 2000.
Canada did again have moments they could take a little pride in, particularly late in the first half and early in the second. The lone scoring moment, only its second in three games, came in the 46th minute when Jeff Hassler made a strong run to get Canada close then Matt Heaton made the final push for the score.
“I feel we grew into the game,” Canadian captain Tyler Ardron said. “And in the last 50 minutes, we put a better performance out.
“We made a few mistakes in the first 25 to 30 minutes but we put it together in the end.”
South Africa put on a show for the full house, building a 40-0 lead after just 28 minutes including two tries that need to be on the short list for try of the tournament. Up 12-0, Cobus Reinach found a seam through Canadian defenders, then with Hassler waiting 10 metres away for him, he lobbed a kick over that defender’s head and caught the ball on the fly with a clear track to the line.
Reinach was also on the tail end of another spectacular play which started deep in South Africa end. Elton Jantjies sent a high kick to the wing where Warrick Gelant caught it on the fly and sped to Canada territory where he passed to Damien De Allende. De Allende then found Reinach who went the final 20 metres for his third try of the match.
De Allende, S’Busiso Nkosi, RG Synman, Frans Steyn, Schalk Brits, Damien Willemse, and Franz Malherbe also scored tries for the Springboks. Synman was a complete presence on the field and was named man of the match as his side (3-1) awaits its quarter-final opponent.
Canada (0-3) played the final 45 minutes down to 14 men when Josh Larsen was sent off for an illegal shoulder charge during a ruck that found the neck of a South Africa player. The team’s effort during that time is something it can carry forward to Sunday’s final pool match against Namibia, where the winner will avoid being placed last in the 20-team tournament.
“It’s a game we’ve really targeted and we want to put our best performance and get a result out of it,” Ardron said.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019