The Black Ferns Sevens team have gone unbeaten in Kitakyushu to claim the Japan leg of the HSBC World Series Sevens tournament. Coach Allan Bunting will also lose his key players to the national squad. However, he sees it as a chance to develop new players.
It was an exciting finish to a tough tournament for New Zealand which could have gone the other way. Thankfully for captain Sarah Goss (Ngāti Kahungunu), her team pulled through in the final against Canada thanks to a last minute try from Michaela Blyde.
“I'm extremely happy for the girls. We were obviously down until that last play, and then for Minnie (Blyde) to score in the corner... she’s been playing really well all season. I'm just really happy for the girls,” says Goss.
Things could easily have been different as they were nearly upset by France on day one. That result is a reminder to Coach Allan Bunting (Te Arawa) that anyone is capable of beating the Olympic silver medalists.
Bunting says, “It doesn’t matter who you play. Whenever anyone plays New Zealand they always bring their best. We have to be our very best when we play. There’s no under-preparing, you have to prepare the best you can.”
During the tournament, there were key moments from the team including a brilliant individual effort from the player of the tournament Portia Woodman against Fiji where she regathered a kick-off from Tyla Nathan Wong to run 50 metres and score. But according to Bunting it was a collective effort that saw them claim the Japan leg of the series.
“This tournament has been pretty tough rugby wise for us, but lots of learning out of it. But in terms of mana (respect), heart, and ngākaunui (passion), they left everything out there.”
Many of Bunting's key players will part from the squad to join up with the Black Ferns, who are preparing for the Rugby World Cup in Ireland in August.
“It’s an opportunity for us to bring in some new players and build our base because we want to have that sorted by the end of this series so we get a good three years development into Tokyo (2020). So it’s a good opportunity to grow and develop a few players.”
The Black Ferns Sevens currently sit in first place on the HSBS World Sevens Series, with teams like Australia, Canada and Fiji chasing their tails.