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Americans to Features in Rhinos’ Match vs. South Africa

  • 18 Sep 2023
Rhinos rugby

Rhinos Rugby is rich in 7s and 10s experience, whether competing on the PR 7s circuit as the Rhinos x Loggerheads or winning hardware at the Rugby Tens Championship. But the organization has been upping its 15s presence, and earlier this year, the women took their first-ever 15s tour to Fiji. Rhinos is currently in South Africa for the program’s second 15s tour and Tuesday, Sept. 19 will mark the team’s second of three matches in Cape Town. AT 4 p.m. SAST (10 a.m. EST/7 A.M. PST), Rhinos will play the South Africa Women’s National Team at False Bay RFC in Constantia, and will live-stream the event on the Official Springbok YouTube channel. [Lead photo c/o]

The Rhinos kicked off their southern hemisphere tour with a 73-13 win (rewatch) against Western Province on Sept. 16. Meanwhile, the Springboks beat Kenya 77-12 and will use Tuesday’s game against the Rhinos to further prepare for the impending WXV2. South Africa is hosting the inaugural tournament from Oct. 13-28 and will welcome the USA, Italy, Japan, Samoa and Scotland to Burgersdorp and Cape Town.

Related: All WXV2 Matches

The Rhinos’ U.S. operation is based in San Clemente, Calif., and the tour mixes players from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and more. Of the Americans, Sophie Pyrz is arguably the most recognizable in the Rhinos ranks. The USA pool player serves as a vice captain alongside New Zealander Grace Kukutai, and the scrumhalf will work closely with captain Shona Weston at No. 8.



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Pyrz refreshed her 15s game with Life West, booting up with the Women’s Premier League team starting in mid-August. She played scrumhalf and got an opportunity to work with Rhinos starting flyhalf Kristin Bitter. The USA 10 and recent Dartmouth grad is from SoCal and relocated to the Bay Area for some reps with Stanford’s Rich Ashfield (read more). The halfbacks paired up on Aug. 26 against the Colorado Gray Wolves and will continue that connection on Tuesday.

Pyrz’s WPL debut actually overlapped with the USA Club 7s National Championship, and several Rhinos players combined with Camp Pendleton for the summer runout. Katie Lohaus captained that combination team to a runner-up finish. Coincidentally, Lohaus once played for the Chicago Lions team that won 7s nationals. She’ll look to influence Tuesday’s game as an impact sub.



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Fellow Americans Sam Brackett and Salome Lewis also helped Rhinos/Camp Pendleton in Wisconsin. Brackett is a USA U23 player and will do work from hooker on Tuesday. Lewis absolutely set the Wisconsin Rugby Sports Complex afire, and the teenager, who will start at wing on Tuesday, was one of the most exciting try-scorers in the tournament.

Lewis will play outside of Rhinos long-timer Aly Namosimalua, a Sacramento Amazons product who has USA age grade experience and is pursuing international playing opportunities in Fiji. On the other wing is Rhinos resident Natalie Bjorklund, the former Penn State captain and USA U23 player who is also in the USA 7s player pool.

Sophia Lamphier picked up rugby at Michigan State and has been sharpening elite skills with the PR 7s Rhinos. Lamphier gets the start at strongsdie flanker. And finally, Hope Cooper was an unexpected addition. The Cal Berkeley grad has been playing with the WPL All Blues the last two years and has also captained the USA U23s. Coaches Hannah Stolba and Lisa Jackson have lauded Cooper’s work ethic, and the hooker will wear the #16 jersey Tuesday.

Watch Tuesday’s game against South Africa at 10 a.m. EST / 7 a.m. PST live on South Africa’s YouTube: Livestream link.

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