The Rhino Moniker is one that is meant to bring awe, respect and fear from opposition. The rhino is a large and powerful animal that stands its ground and defends itself when under threat. These are all qualities that were shown by the South African Rugby League team in Markham, Toronto.
The South Africans flew 18,000 km to partake in the World Cup Qualifiers and had a warm up match with the Canadian Wolverines. News of Rugby league in South Africa can be very rare indeed and in reality no one knew what to expect from them. Would they be fast? Would the be big? I saw the Rhinos play in 2008 in England when they had a 3 match tour. It was a team that seemed underdone and not really prepared. Not so in 2011. With new management structures in South African Rugby League, the players have been together and playing for over 8 months now. All the qualities that their moniker possesses, it also instilled into the team.
The game started out in physical fashion. The Rhinos showed they had the strength and power up front to really trouble the Canadians. As Wolverines Captain Jamie Lester said after the game ‘We came in with a game plan, and it completely changed within the first few minutes!’ It took only 4 minutes for the Rhinos to run in their first try through their full back Christof Swanepoel. With the conversion they were ahead 6-0. Canada were able to strike back very soon through a try to Geoff Bylund. It took another 10 minutes for the Canadians to be able to find a break in the South African lines through their full back, Robin Legault who made a daring run to score in the corner. The conversion put them ahead 10-6.
At the half hour mark it was the South African’s going in again through their Man of the Match Stevie Meyer, who actually scores the next two tries with only one of them being converted by Francios Greyvensteyn. When the whistle blew at for half time it was a surprising 16-10 lead to the Rhinos.
Canada needed to score first in the second half to get back some initiative, but inspired South African defense held them out even when they had like 3 penalties and sets of six only 5 meters out from the their try line. With a simple mistake where the ball was spilled the Rhinos were back on the initiative and were able to gain some easy meters down the field. The Rhinos have some great speed down the sides and Hans du Plessis was able to get to the try line and get the first points of the half and take them to a 20-10 lead. Canada immediately struck back through Enoch Wamalwa to bring it back 16-20.
Passions and tempers flares and a good biff in the 64th minute erupted. It was an amazing sight, after the Ref had a chat to the players and teams, to see the players involved shook hands to let things go and get on with the game. The two teams then traded two tries blow for blow after that, with Rupert Wells going in for the Rhinos and then Legault in once again for the Wolverines. The last 10 minutes though saw the Rhinos start to over power their hosts. They had more to prove and lose and so were not going to let things stay where they were. Two more tries to Johan Fritz and then Christo Louw on full time saw them run out emphatic first time winners over the Wolverines 36-22.
The Rhinos Coach, Steven van Zyl though said “We still have a lot of improvement” and when talking to the Tour Manager for the Rhino’s, Chris Botes, he was impressed with what the Canadians have managed to achieve in only a couple years and it was a shame they weren’t in the qualifiers as well.
It was a hot day in Toronto and everyone was feeling with yours truly getting another set of ‘Raccoon Eyes’. In the end there were no injuries suffered by any of the teams and it will be a full strength Rhinos that will be in Philadelphia for the World Cup Qualifiers.
South African Rhinos
1. Christof Swanepoel (Bloemfontein Roosters, Orange Free State)
2. Rupert Wells (Tuks Bulls, Northern Gauteng)
3. Henry du Toit (Bloemfontein Roosters, Orange Free State)
4. Hans du Plessis (Tuks Bulls, Northern Gauteng)
5. Johan Fritz Backline (Middleburg Tigers, Mpumalanga Province)
6. Francois Greyvensteyn (Brakpan Bears, Eastern Gauteng)
7. Andre Loader (C) (Brakpan Bears, Eastern Gauteng)
8. Christo Louw (Tuks Bulls, Northern Gauteng)
9. Gerrie Slabber (Bloemfontein Roosters, Orange Free State)
10. Christo Joubert (Brakpan Bears, Eastern Gauteng)
11. Rudolf Prinsloo (Brakpan Bears, Eastern Gauteng)
12. Jonathan Soares (Tuks Bulls, Northern Gauteng)
13. Stevie Meyer (Bloemfontein Roosters, Orange Free State)
18.* Pieter van der Nest (Tuks Bulls, Northern Gauteng)
19.* Riaan Engelbrecht (Tuks Gulls, Northern Gauteng)
20.* Jean-Pierre Nel (Tuks Bulls, Northern Gauteng)
21.* Gerhard de Wet (Tuks Bulls, Northern Gauteng)
(* the Rhino’s are playing with tour numbers)
1. Robin Legault (Toronto City Saints)
2. Tony Felix (York Region Reds)
3. Geoff Bylund (Toronto City Saints)
4. Tyler Allen (Scarborough Centurions)
5. Kale Hutchings (Niagara Bobcats)
6. Matt Wyles (Scarborough Centurions)
7. Jamie Lester (Toronto City Saints)
8. Cam Grace (Noosa Pirates, Aus)
9. Chris Diamond (Niagara Bobcats)
10. Ruairi McGoff (Workington Town, Eng)
11. Enoch Wamalwa (Toronto City Saints)
12. Henry Miers (York Region Reds)
13. Trent Hansen (Toronto City Saints)
14. Graham Dobbs (Scarborough Centurions)
15. Christian Miller (Scarborough Centurions)
16. Steve Lamb (Niagara Bobcats)
17. Rob Autagavaia (York Region Reds)
Canada 22 – Tries: Geoff Bylund, Robin Legault (2), Enoch Wamalwa Conv.: Kale Hutchings (3)
South Africa 36 – Tries: Christof Swanepoel, Stevie Meyer (2), Hans du Plessis, Rupers Wells, Johan Fritz, Christo Louw, Conv.: Francois Greyvensteyn (4) Peter van der Nest (2)