Qualification for nationals Otago’s goal

Getting to nationals will be the goal of the Otago women's sevens team, as the 2015 team ...
Getting to nationals will be the goal of the Otago women's sevens team, as the 2015 team (pictured above) did. Photo: Getty Images
The Otago women’s sevens side has some new faces as the game continues to grow both on and off the field.

The side, coached by David Latta, Mike Moeahu and Mikey Jacobs, will head to the regional tournament in Timaru tomorrow with one goal in mind — to qualify for the national tournament.

With five sides attending, Latta said the focus was to play well and with it the results would come.

The side had plenty of experience, some exciting newcomers and plenty of speed.

"The game is still about speed and the ability to take all the chances which come along. When you have someone with that extra gas then you have a real advantage," Latta said.

Former national schools 300m hurdles champion Maddy Spence has joined the side.

She got involved last season but injury intervened.

But Latta said she was back this year and was keen to learn the game. He was hopeful she would get the opportunity this weekend to show her wares.

Sam Hollows, who had been involved in the national development sevens programme, would be a key asset to the team. She played hooker and centre and had the ability to make the break.

Sonia Panapa, an assistant principal at Wakatipu High School, was back in the side and would add valuable experience. Soraya Umaga-Jensen was also an experienced player who would add strength to the side.

The team was hit by a serious injury at a warm-up tournament in Oamaru two weeks ago when Renaye Flockton broke her leg in a tackle.

She has had surgery but has plates and screws in her leg and has a long recovery period in front of her.

Latta said her absence was a blow to the team but there was increasing depth this year as sevens grew in popularity in the women’s game.

He said players were acquiring more knowledge as the game grew and that was leading to a higher standard of play.

Sevens was a lot of hard physical training and conditioning and the hot weather of the past few weeks had helped in getting the conditioning of the players right.

The side had been training with about 16 players so the increased competition would be good for the players.

Jacobs, who was sharing the coaching workload with Latta, had a sevens coaching background and had been a trainer at a national level. He was an asset to have, Latta said and had got the players in good shape.

The team will travel to Timaru this afternoon as it has the early game, kicking off at 9.40am tomorrow.

The other teams playing are Tasman, Canterbury, Hanan Shields and Southland. The top three teams qualify for the national tournament in Rotorua next month.

A preview of the Otago men’s side is scheduled for tomorrow.

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