The SA Women’s Under-20 team suffered their second defeat in the IRB Nations Cup in London on Wednesday night as they went down 37-0 to Canada in the penultimate match of the tournament.
In an unusual clash SA lost three players to injury, two due to concussion and one with a suspected neck injury, which disrupted their momentum and forced coach Hennie Pieterse to clear his bench in the second half.
The first half was tightly contested as SA did well to limit Canada to a 13-0 lead despite inside centre Ezryn van Aswegen being rushed to hospital for a neck injury, and minutes later being reduced to 14 women after receiving a yellow card for repeated infringements.
But the team battled to maintain this fighting spirit in the second half after losing two more players to concussion in the first 10 minutes of play, which allowed Canada to take control of the match.
With momentum on Canada’s side and the team at full strength they ran in four second-half tries to add to the one in the first half, while Jess Neilson kept the scoreboard ticking with her accurate boot to hand her team an emphatic 37-0 win.
In the other round-robin match, the USA defeated England 27-17 to book their place in the final on Sunday against Canada. SA, meanwhile, will line up against England in the third and fourth place playoff.
“The score against Canada was not a true reflection of what happened in the match,” coach Hennie Pieterse said from the team’s base in London. “The injuries dealt a big blow mentally and it tested our depth. However, the important thing is that we finish the tournament on a high, so we have to regroup and focus our attention on Sunday’s match against England. We beat them in the opening match of the Nations Cup and we are determined to do it again.”
Fortunately for the coach Ezryn van Aswegen’s neck injury was not as serious as suspected, meaning she should be available for Sunday’s match.
A call on the availability of the other injured players, however, will be made in the next few days.