MADRID — Fancy Bermudez, a sevens player in her 15s international debut, and Sabrina Poulin each scored two tries as Canada thumped South Africa 66-7 Saturday in its first match since finishing fourth at the Women's Rugby World Cup in November in New Zealand.
The game was a warmup for the fourth-ranked Canadian women ahead of next Saturday's Pacific Four Series opener against the seventh-ranked U.S., also to be played at Estadio Nacional de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
The seventh-ranked Americans defeated No. 11 Spain 20-14 earlier Saturday.
No. 13 South Africa was reduced to 14 women in the seventh minute when flanker Catha Jacobs, following video review, was red-carded for a high tackle.
Canada led 35-0 at the half and likely could have had a bigger advantage had it not been for inopportune handling errors and penalties. The Canadians also dominated in the second half but rust continued to show with errant passes and infractions.
South Africa made its own share of mistakes.
DaLeaka Menin, Sarah-Maude Lachance, Paige Farries, Julia Schell, Marie-Pier Fauteux and Renee Gonzalez also scored tries for Canada, which dominated in the scrum and lineout. Captain Sophie de Goede kicked six conversions, including several from the touchline, while Emma Taylor added a pair.
Nomawethu Mabenge scored the lone South Africa try. LibbieJanse van Rensburg booted a conversion.
Veteran lock Tyson Beukeboom earned cap No. 57 for Canada, second only to the retired Gillian Florence's 66 caps.
Cassandra Tuffnail and Mahalia Robinson earned their first caps for Canada, entering the game in the second half.
“We had a lot of mistakes for sure, but the first half we tried, and we scored a lot of points. We could have scored more, but after just 2 1/2 practices I’m very proud of them," said Canada coach Kevin Rouet. "We know we have to refine all those mistakes, all those offloads, all those passes on the ground, so there’s a lot to work on for sure, but there’s a lot of positives.”
The Canadian women beat South Africa 53-15 the last time they played, at the 2013 Nations Cup in Colorado.
The Canadians attacked from the opening kickoff Saturday, marching down the field thanks to a well-placed 50-22 kick. But the offensive ended in Canada being penalized for holding on in the tackle near the South Africa goal line.
The Canadians went ahead 7-0 with a converted try by Menin in the ninth minute, catching the South Africa defence short on a multi-phase attack.
Poulin added to the lead in the 12th minute, breaking through the Springbok defence. Lachance took advantage of a disorganized South African defence in the 19th minute with a third converted try after a Canadian turnover at the breakdown.
South Africa lost a forward to injury in the 30th minute with de Goede warned but not penalized about her clean-out technique at the breakdown. A minute later, Farries got to a Canadian kick just before it rolled out of play for a fourth try. De Goede made the conversion from the touchline for a 28-0 lead.
Bermudez scored on a brilliant solo run in the 38th minute, cutting through the South Africa backline.
Poulin scored her second try in the 50th minute to make it 40-0, going over in the corner from close range after the Canadian forwards battered the South Africa goal-line defence.
The scoreboard kept ticking with tries from Schell (50th minute), Fauteux (62nd), Bermudez (70th) and Gonzalez (77th).
Mabenge put South Africa on the board in the 65th minute, breaching the Canadian defence with a fine run.
Canada, No. 2 New Zealand, No. 6 Australia and the U.S. are contesting the third edition of the Pacific Four Series.
Australia will host New Zealand in June with all four teams converging on Canada in July for the final matches of the series. The top three teams qualify for the inaugural WXV, a new three-tier annual global women's international 15s competition, while the bottom team will move on to the WXV second tier.
The WXV is scheduled for October-November.
The South African women lost all three matches at the World Cup, to No. 3 France (40-5), No. 17 Fiji (21-17) and No. 1 England (75-0).
Canada pushed England to the limit in a 26-19 semifinal loss before falling 36-0 to France in the bronze-medal game.
Thirteen of Rouet's matchday 23 for the South Africa contest dressed for the fourth-place game at the World Cup. The tour roster includes 19 members of Canada's World Cup squad.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2023
The Canadian Press