Canada has put itself in a must-win situation after recording a loss and a draw on Friday, the opening day of the USA Sevens rugby tournament in Las Vegas — the fifth stop on the 10-event HSBC Sevens World Series.
The Canadian squad, ranked 12th, opened pool play with a 33-7 loss to No. 2 South Africa before rallying for a 26-26 draw against the No.11 Americans.
Former World Rugby Sevens Series champions the Blitzboks capitalized on any chance that came their way, running in four tries in the opening half as Canada had little response to stem this South African tide.
Seabelo Senatla opened the scoring after two minutes when turnover ball led to him having a free run to the corner. The winger was over again soon after, as South Africa raced into a 12-0 lead in the Pool D game at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Two further tries followed before the break when Justin Geduld and Ruhan Nel both crossed, making it a 26-0 cushion.
Canada had better possession and territory in the second half, but could not turn the pressure into points and South Africa countered with Bryan Habana racing over for its fifth try.
Phil Mack, playing in his 50th World Rugby Series event and becoming the first Canadian to reach the feat, battled his way over the whitewash with Nathan Hirayama's conversion to make it 33-7.
Canada fell behind and almost produced a come-from-behind triumph in their final pool fixture of the day against the U.S.
Trailing 26-7 with only four minutes to play, the Canadians crossed for three scores and could have won in added time.
The Americans opened the scoring inside a minute when Zach Test crossed and five minutes later they were over again thanks to a chip and chase from Perry Baker. With the second score converted, the host nation held a 12-0 lead.
Canada responded through Admir Cejvanovic for an effort that looked set to send the teams in at 12-5, but the U.S. scored on the last play of the opening half when Martin Iosefo raced over to leave Canada down 19-7.
It was soon 26-7 when Baker claimed his brace and with 11 minutes gone in the second half.
Conor Trainor, Hirayama and finally Mack brought Canada level.
Canada faces No. 13 Wales on Saturday in a must-win match. Canada is 1-1 against Wales this season and 13-23-1 all-time. The top two teams in the group will advance to the elite Cup quarter-finals.