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Black Ferns Sevens set for blockbuster semi-final clash with Australia

By Finn Morton
New Zealand (in black) vs France (in blue) during the HSBC SVNS Women's Series at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2024 at Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, China, on 6 April 2024. Photo by Jayne Russell/Clique Visuals

If you’re from New Zealand or Australia then you know that cheering on your nation in a sporting fixture against the neighbours “over the ditch” is unlike anything else.

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Australia are often talked up as the big brother figure while New Zealand is the younger sibling with something to prove. But regardless of how you look at it, this is sport at its very best.

These two proud sporting nations divided by the Tasman Sea will write another couple of chapters into the history books of their great rivalry at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens on Sunday.

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Finn Morton spoke with Theresa Setefano before New Zealand’s semi-final against Australia. Photo by Jayne Russell/Clique Visuals

Not only will the men’s teams go toe-to-toe for a spot in the final, but so will the women.

The Black Ferns Sevens booked their place in the semi-finals with a clinical 26-5 win over Canada before SVNS Series leaders Australia got the better of Japan by 12 in a thriller on day two.

With plenty of black jerseys in the crowd at the iconic Hong Kong Stadium, and countless fold shirts as well, this upcoming clash between the top two sides in women’s sevens is sure to be fierce.

“We love playing Australia. They’ve got a lot of ball players, they’ve got a lot of speed in their team and they’re a really clinical side,” New Zealand’s Theresa Setefano told RugbyPass.

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“We know it’s going to be a tough match every time we play against them.

“The ‘over the ditch’ rivalry so there’s always that extra competitiveness that goes into that game.”

New Zealand stumbled on their way to the final after falling in a surprise defeat to France earlier on Saturday. With the Kiwis parked up on their own try line, France’s Seraphine Okemba crashed over for the match-winning score in the 15th minute.

But after Black Ferns Sevens great Portia Woodman-Wickliffe told this publication that there can be a reason to “love” losing in some situations, the Kiwis bounced back in style.

Having learnt the lessons that they needed to learn, the New Zealanders shot out of the blocks against the Canadians with Shiray Kaka crossing for an eye-catching double inside six minutes.

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Youngsters Jorja Miller and Mahina Paul also added tries of their own as New Zealand ran up a big lead with a try to Canada’s Shalaya Valenzuela the only blip on the 26-5 final score.

“It’s pretty surreal. We didn’t have the greatest game this morning so we regathered, refocused and knew that this afternoon was going to be a final for us,” Setefano said.

“We tried to be as clinical as we can. We’re really excited for tomorrow.

“I think it can be a blessing (to lose) in some instances and so we’re lucky that the game we dropped wasn’t a finals match,” she added.

“It’s better to do it at the start of the tournament than the end so we did regather. Losing is never a good feeling so I guess we were a little bit more motivated than we already are.”

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As for the Australians, who are searching for their first taste of Cup final glory since SVNS Cape Town in December, they were phenomenal for two of their three pool fixtures.

After moving on from pool play with a +70 points differential, the Aussies survived a valiant performance from Japan to move on with a 12-nil win.

The SVNS Series leaders haven’t conceded a single point since Fiji’s Raijieli Daveua scored in the fourth minute of their opening pool match on Friday morning. That’s roughly 52 minutes without an opposing team scoring against Australia.

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