Otago will field a women's side at the regional sevens
tournament in Timaru on Saturday, hoping to qualify for the
national tournament in Queenstown in January.
The Otago side has emerged from the Go for Gold programme
instigated by the New Zealand Rugby Union, in an attempt to
find athletes who will play for New Zealand at the Olympics
in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Mike Moeahu, who coached the Otago men's sevens side for many
years, is taking charge of the women's side and an academy
squad which has been training on and off right through the
Once the Otago Spirit's campaign finished, an Otago sevens
squad was picked and it has been training twice a week for
the past few weeks.
Moeahu said it was always going to be a challenge to get the
players up to speed in sevens but the women were keen and
were learning quickly.
The side would be hampered by the unavailability of five
players who are away with the Black Ferns in England.
Kelly Brazier, Anika Tiplady, Hailee Hurring, Victoria
Nafatali and Claire Richardson are all on tour but will be
available for the Queenstown tournament.
There are four teams in the Timaru tournament. Otago is
joined by Southland, Canterbury and Tasman.
Moeahu said it was a bit of a trip into the unknown but the
side's fitness was good and the players were working hard.
There would be a round-robin played between the four teams
before semifinals and a final.
One of the more interesting names in the squad is Pip Symes,
who played hockey for the Southern league team and played for
the New Zealand under-21 team.
Schoolgirls Sam Hollows and Olivia Hickman have both played
touch for New Zealand age group sides.
A captain is yet to be appointed.
The top two in Timaru will join four other sides from the
northern and central regions to take part in the national
competition in Queenstown in January.
A men's side from Otago will also attend the tournament.
Leyhana van Vugt, Biddy Sefton, Sonia Panapa, Rachel Scott,
Kerry Stoddart, Sheree Hume, Jenna Aikman, Sam Hollows, Anya
McLeod, Pip Symes, Rebecca Smeele, Greer Muir, Olivia