The St Mary's College Sevens team has returned home after winning the Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament in Japan. It is the first time the Wellington-based secondary school has won the tournament.
The team arrived into the country this morning in Auckland wearing big medals and even bigger smiles. It will take time for the team to get used to being called world champions.
Vice-captain Renee Savaiinaea is overjoyed with the victory. “It's a great feeling being able to call ourselves world champs in secondary schools as girls. Rugby's kinda getting bigger for girls in New Zealand now.”
Coach Tuga Mativa says, “To be honest it still hasn't sunk in. It sunk in it first happened. It hasn't really sunk in, I think it's slowly getting there now that we're back in [the country].”
The girls had spontaneously decided that if they made the final, they would perform the East Coast haka Ka Panapana. The haka was well received by the host nation, as well as teams from other countries.
“We kind of named it our school haka and we sort of do it for any cultural event,” says Savaiinaea.
The girls met Kokugakuin University Tochigi High School from Japan in the final. The locals put up a valiant effort before eventually succumbing to St Mary's 26 - 22.
“The Japanese girls were giving it to us. They really tested us right to the end, it could've gone either way,” says Mativa.
Savaiinaea says, “It was quite tight throughout the whole game. The final whistle was when we knew.”
There is no time to rest for the team as they look to defend their title they won last year against Aotea College.
“Our sevens tournament is at the end of the year, but most of us are going to move on to our 15 a side this year with winter. So hopefully we make top 4 and do well there,” says Savaiinaea
The girls are expecting a warm welcome back at school tomorrow, before heading back to the classroom.