Black Ferns Sevens and All Black Sevens powering up for LA series

Black Ferns strike prop Portia Woodman (Ngāpuhi) will be playing her 50th tournament at the SVNS series.

The All Blacks franchise will take centre stage at the Los Angeles SVNS series tournament this month with big ambitions from both the Black Ferns and All Blacks Sevens teams.

“We know that the first three tournaments we’ve been building and we haven’t quite got things right. We talked pre-tournament about momentum and confidence,” Black Ferns Sevens head coach Cory Sweeney says.

He says he thinks the team were performing consistently during the weekend and that it has certainly built some confidence in the group.

“We’re in a good place after that.”

Sweeney says the tournament has probably been a three or four week phase where the team really honed in on being a bit more accurate than they have in the first three tournaments.

“We were calm on field and I think we demonstrated that right throughout the tournament. I think Canada pushed us really well in the semi. We probably hadn’t felt a lot of pressure until that point but they certainly brought that in the semi-final and that was good for us.”

He says “it’s quite cool” looking at the team lined up for the national anthem and seeing more young faces.

“It’s quite a nice blend of experience with the likes of Portia and Michaela there. Kelsey, Manaia, Mahina, they’re all coming into that group and getting some great exposure and playing really well on the world series. I think that’s the exciting piece for this team moving forward into the Olympics and then obviously beyond that as well.”

Woodman’s 50th

Familiar face and Black Ferns strike prop, Portia Woodman (Ngāpuhi) will be playing her 50th tournament at this SVNS series.

“Yeah, I guess for me in the past. I guess for the past six years or so years it has been a little bit of a battle for me, mentally, physically just trying to find my groove back into the sevens conditioning,” Woodman says.

She says the sevens game has adapted so fast, that everyone on the circuit is fast, everyone on her team is fast, they’re all running faster than her and so she’s trying to figure out where she fits.

“For the team to put out a performance like that allows me to play like I did. It was really cool, felt like old times but I also got to change my mentality, that’s my new normal now.

I’m strong, fast and powerful so I just got to add it all up.”

Woodman says they have been through a lot as a team but they didn’t have to dig too deep to find out their core roles on the field last weekend.

“We’ve found our groove, the girls are figuring out what their position is and how they fit into the environment but we still got to pull out this weekend as well.”

Knewstubb returns

The SVNS series also sees the return of All Blacks fullback, Andrew Knewstubb after two ACL injuries and also a wound infection that had him sidelined for much of the rugby season.

“It’s been a very long journey but it’s been awesome. I’m just super grateful I’ve been given the opportunity. I’m also grateful for the boys keeping me in the loop, making sure I’m still part of the team,” Knewstubb says.

He says he will be kicking the rugby ball on the field this week for the tournament and is up for sharing the duties with his team mates.

All Blacks Sevens head coach Tomasi Cama says that team newbie Jayden Keelan has x-factors with the ability to beat people with his foot work and is quite solid despite his build.

“Quite like the rawness. He’s really raw in the game, hasn’t played a lot of sevens but what he gives you is he just works hard.”

Cama says that competition will be strong as other teams are also gunning for the Olympics.

“For us I think we can’t look at the points to make us play better. We just need to understand why we are playing this game and who for and go deeper on that. And hopefully we start to put out some performance that we’d be proud of and people will be proud of.”

Te Rito