World champion Stacey Fluhler with her newest fans
The new New Zealand Kura ā Iwi sevens tournament, called Tūiranuku, has taken off today.
The playing fields in Hautapu, Cambridge, were packed with years 9 and 10 boys and girls as they displayed their rugby talents.
And they were thrilled to see one of the Rugby World Cup champions Stacey Fluhler there to support the first Tūiranuku tournament.
New Zealand Rugby had asked the Waikato Rugby Union to put together a tournament for wharekura and kura kaupapa Māori to compete against each other and after two tournaments make two teams, one male and one female, to travel next year to France to compete at the men’s world cup against 19 other schools from around the world.
Waikato Rugby Union development coordinator Reuben Tautahi Samuel took on this opportunity and made a call to Watson Ohia, the director for Kura ā Iwi and he and his team jumped at the opportunity.
One of the team members, Edward Harawira of Kura ā Iwi said, “This tournament has been established for our smaller schools. We all know there is great talent in our smaller schools.”
Rangatahi gear up to take Waikato sevens to France.
‘So much talent’
New Zealand Rugby, the rugby union and One Foundation have supported today’s tournament. There were 15 teams playing, with more than 30 volunteers, a crew livestreaming games, reo Māori announcers, and six referees, most speaking Māori fluently.
“That’s how Māori do kaupapa like this - we work together and work well, ” Samuel said.
One referee had to pull out of the tournament leaving Samuel to lace up and blow a whistle, which showed how multi-tasked volunteers had to be.
World champion player Stacey Fluhler from Ruatoki came to support the tournament and to also give some world-class advice to her nephew Te Ahi Kōmau Waaka-Jackson who played for Te Wharekura o Ruatoki.
“There is so much talent in our small areas and small communities and it is cool to see them go out there and do their thing.
“Obviously listening to the referee behind me speaking Māori to the tamariki is cool, it is just growing the game,” Fluhler said.
Waaka-Jason was happy to have his aunt watch and direct him - as he was able to regain the ball twice from a lineout and set up one try, which showed his aunt’s potential in coaching one day.
Fluhler surprised 13-year-old Eden Brears from Te Wharekura o Mauao and her friends by letting them hold her gold medal from last week’s win against England in the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2022.
“I was excited to meet Stacey Fluhler because she is one of my rugby player icons,” Brears said.
There will be one more Tūiranuku tournament next year in March when under- 15 boys and girls teams will be decided and they will travel to France in September 2023.
Te Wharekura o Rakaumanga won the boy’s section closely followed by Te Wharekura o Ruatoki. Hine Piata won the girl’s section again with Te Wharekura o Ruatoki girls representing their kura well in that final.