Returning players have reinforced both New Zealand sides in the HSBC World SVNS series, which begins this weekend in Perth.
Tyla King (née Nathan-Wong) has returned to the Black Ferns Sevens after taking a seven-month hiatus to marry and play rugby league.
One of the advantages of the league experience was knowing how to deal with athletes that ran right at her.
“I wanted to get away and experience something new, a new setting, a new coaching style, to revitalize and replenish my batteries, and it has done just that.
She appreciated coming back with the team and beginning her 13th season of Sevens at a venue in Perth she had never seen before.
Coach Cory Sweeney stated that the team learned lessons from the Dubai and Cape Town competitions.
They were tenacious in Dubai and performed admirably in Cape Town before facing France.
Given recent experience with workloads in important seasons, the team was not at its competitive peak in those tournaments, but was on track to improve during the Series and season.
“We want to be at our peak performance in Madrid and in the Olympics, and this is another step in that direction. We’re content with where we’re at, but we need to build momentum over the next several weeks.”
Over the holidays, they had to balance their physical routine with family time.
“We’re in a new year, but we want to make our imprint for 2024 this weekend. We have a combination of veteran and young players coming through, which will be our strength for the rest of the season.
“Perth is a chance to stamp our mark going into an Olympic year with six months to go.”
Sweeney stated that wounded skipper Sarah Hirini was in the initial stage of her recovery from knee surgery, walking normally and working with medical professionals during her rehabilitation.
All Blacks Sevens captain Dylan Collier, who is also returning to captain the team for the first time, stated that after their defeats in the first two rounds of the Series, they have been focusing on regaining the level they achieved last year.
It was a case of remembering and repeating the minor aspects that contributed to success rather than expecting things to happen on their own.
“You have to work on the little things that people don’t see in order for them to show up on the field. The confidence is still there; we always believe we are the best in the world.”
Coach Tomasi Cama stated that the Olympic Games were the obvious goal for the team, but they also intended to do well in the SVNS series.
“We’ve got players who are coming back from injuries, back from NPC last year, so we are trying to prepare well, allowing us to go and play well and then it’s using the world series to help us prepare.”
That would include working on new combinations of players while still aiming to win individual tournaments.
“This weekend is another opportunity, we’ve got a good squad here, with experience, so hopefully, we will do the jersey proud this weekend.”
That would entail limiting opponents’ opportunities while playing to their strengths.
“We’ve got Fiji and Samoa [in their pool] and they always bring their A game against us, so we have to be on from France first up.”