​​​​​​​Te Ao Māori important to New Zealand Sevens teams

By Herewini Waikato

Running in the rain - the eager Women's Sevens squad

Today was the final field run for both men's and women's NZ Sevens today in a cold and damp Tauranga.

Despite the rain and chill 40 of New Zealand's top sevens players took to the field to show their brilliance in front of a media-packed rugby field.

Women’s Sevens coach Allan Bunting praised all of his team but particularly mentioned Portia Woodman and Stacey Fluhler for their efforts on the field and off in raising awareness of Te Ao Māori in a space natural to the team and staff.

“It is not what Portia and Stacey just do on the field but also off. This is a big part of our culture - our waiata, karakia, haka - and so much more.  They are just good human beings”, Bunting said.

 Men’s Sevens coach Craig Laidlaw identified Tūhoe sensation Ngarohi Mcgarvey-Black as a big part of a Māori push in the team.

“Ngarohi and some of the other senior players, like Joe Webber and Regan Weir, these types of players have been able to develop that part of a culture. It has become a very strong part of who we are and that's why we play the game.”

Australia, then Japan

Next Tuesday the players will head to Australia for a new tournament under the Oceania Rugby Sevens brand.

The 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens provides targeted high-performance preparation for regional pre-qualified rugby teams ahead of the Tokyo Olympics Games. This is an opportunity for indigenous countries like Fiji and Samoa to show off their culture as New Zealand does with the haka.

 Asked if is it always special to perform the haka, Stacey Fluhler had only one response: “Absolutely and the goosebumps you feel, I get a lot of energy and happiness from it. Especially because we only do it if we win a tournament.”

The teams are seeking to avenge their respective defeats four years ago in the last Olympics this time in Japan, where the coronavirus is still causing concern. However, the players are confident they will be safe.

Men's squad members show their skills

Mcgarvey- Black is not too worried because they will have plenty of good doctors with them and all have received the vaccines. Woodman is confident the overseas Players’ wellness bubbles will aid in their aim to stay safe from Covid-19.

The first games start next Friday in Townsville for the Oceania Rugby Sevens and go for three days. After that, the NZ RugbySevens teams will be selected to represent this country at this year’s Olympics at the end of July in Tokyo.