Sport | Rugby

Canada U18s girls’ rugby team develops skills in fierce NZ rugby tour

A British Columbia Women under-18s rugby team, the Bayside Sharks, has been touring New Zealand, with their fourth and final match yesterday against Bay of Plenty Central, made up of mostly Māori kōhine Rugby players from Rautāwhiri or Rotorua Girls High School.

For both teams, the game was part of a development path to help support young female players into professional women’s rugby careers and strengthen experience and culture.

Bay of Plenty Central manager Meriana Tamati Manager was excited to have the visiting team take to the field with her girls.

“It’s a great lead-up to a big season ahead for our girls and to have these visitors here will do our lot well,” Tamati said.

Thirty year 10,11, and 12 students from five different schools in South Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver took part in the rugby excursion. They were here for the experience and to represent their country and province of British Columbia.

Rated Bay of Plenty skills

Bayside Sharks manager Dave Marsden was a little anxious for his girls as he saw a size and strength difference but also acknowledged the moving of the ball and the high level of skill from the Bay of Plenty team.

“They are on their spring break right now so it’s about getting them exposure to the game outside of their comfort zone and why not come halfway around the world to play rugby?”

They have been in the country as controversy continues over haka before rugby games. That follows the Hurricanes Poua women’s team performing such a haka that said “karetao o te Kawana kakiwhero” which translates to ‘puppets of a red-neck government”.

This did not sit well with some in government and the Hurricanes franchise. But for the girls playing yesterday, it made them even more fired up to share their culture in sports through haka leading into the future.

Players support haka

“I am disappointed with the government but I am happy also that the Poua team is remaining staunch in their bid to keep haka at the forefront of sports,” said Hariru Smith from Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Koutu, who plays for Bay of Plenty Central.

The captain of the Bayside Sharks and from Semiahmoo Secondary School in Surrey, Vancouver, Kaylee Higgs has grown up watching the All Blacks and world champion Black Ferns ( Rarauhe Pango) and their team haka and was disheartened to hear the politics of rugby versus culture.

“It is something we have seen, indigenous practices being stopped in Canada and I think it’s a shame to see that we are shutting down on the cultures that we see happening around the world,” she said.

The Bayside Sharks have now flown home and Central Bay will now prepare for The Toi Ohomai Youth Development Cup in July.