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‘Here to take it out’: Black Ferns Sevens not burdened by Grand Final pressure

By Finn Morton
New Zealand players celebrate with the trophy after defeating Australia in the women's cup final during day three of the HSBC SVNS Singapore at the National Stadium on May 05, 2024 in Singapore. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

From the outside looking in, it seems there would have to be a sense of pressure or expectation following the Black Ferns Sevens this week. New Zealand were crowned League winners earlier this month after winning their fourth Cup final on the bounce.


But that was then, and this is now. For the first time on the new-look SVNS Series, the top eight women’s and men’s teams will compete at a winner-takes-all event to become the overall SVNS Series champion at a blockbuster Grand Final.

New Zealand’s success during the last four events in particular will see them carry the ‘favourites’ tag into the historic three-day event, but Australia aren’t too far behind. The neighbouring nations have been the pick of the lot in women’s sevens this year.

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But the Black Ferns Sevens don’t seem to be feeling the heat – at least not figuratively. The women in black have had to contend with a day of travel to get to the Spanish capital, the jet lag that followed, and scorching temperatures in the lead-up to game day.

While the hot conditions are impossible to ignore, the Kiwis don’t seem to feel overwhelming pressure. Captain Risaleaana ‘Risi’ Pouri-Lane appeared quite calm before, during and after the captain’s photo at the Royal Palace on Wednesday.

The Black Ferns Sevens are here to win, make no mistake about that, but this is still ultimately “another opportunity” for the team to keep going in the pursuit of excellence, growth and hopefully some silverware to match.

“The mentality is definitely that we can’t take any game lightly, and we never do but I guess the mentality here is it’s the top eight teams and every game is going to be a challenge but we’re here to take it out,” Pouri-Lane told RugbyPass.


“We know that everything that happened before doesn’t matter, it’s who comes in and shows up on the weekend.

“I think it’s the way we perceive the pressure, really. For us, it’s just another opportunity to keep growing in the areas that we know we didn’t quite get right in Singapore (and) the last few tournaments.


“For us, it’s just about being able to put everything that we’ve learned into practice and onto the field and hopefully the byproduct of that is a win.

“Personally, I know that amongst the group the pressure’s not a burden.”

It must be said that while the Black Ferns Sevens rose to glory at SVNS stops in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Hong Kong China and Singapore, it was a very different story earlier in the campaign.


New Zealand’s incredible unbeaten streak on the circuit, which had spanned more than 40 matches up until that point, came to an end last December as they fell in an enthralling battle to arch-rivals Australia in Dubai.

The Kiwis were knocked out in the semi-finals the following weekend in Cape Town, and bundled out in the quarter-finals at SVNS Perth in January. While they threw plenty of punches, the eventual League winners failed to fire a knockout blow.

But then it all clicked.

Tyla King, Michaela Blyde, Jorja Miller and Shiray Kaka were especially impressive during the run of back-to-back-to-back-to-back Cup final wins. They rose up the Series’ standings and ended up emerging victorious in Singapore.

Momentum. That’s what Pouri-Lane was asked about on Wednesday afternoon. With the Paris Olympics coming up, and of course this Grand Final event, the Black Ferns Sevens are pushing themselves to be great as they look to keep the good times going.


“It’s definitely been a focus of ours since the beginning of the season. We obviously didn’t get off to the greatest start but we’ve always known that if we can get the things that we need to get right, right, then we’ll start building great momentum,” Pouri-Lane explained.

“We know there’s still more to come and there’s still a lot of potential that hasn’t been unleashed yet within our squad. There’s so much growth within our squad and the players that aren’t even making the team are pushing the girls that are here.

“We know that it’s gonna get tougher, it is going to get harder the closer we get to the business end of the season but that’s why we play and we enjoy those moments.

“Hopefully, all going well, if we stick to our plan and we keep applying to what we need to other teams and ourselves to make sure we’re in the best possible position come Olympics.”

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