Rugby: Otago women hoping to qualify for nationals

Pip Symes
Pip Symes
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 year.

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.



Otago sevens
Women's team


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 Hickman.



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