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‘Highly likely…’: NZ coach provides troubling injury update on Sarah Hirini

By Finn Morton
HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 22: Niall Guthrie, Sarah Hirini and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe of New Zealand look on during the 2023 HSBC Sevens match between the United States and New Zealand at FMG Stadium on January 22, 2023 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini is “highly likely to be unavailable” for the Cape Town SVNS next weekend after sustaining a leg injury on the opening day of the new season.

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Hirini, 30, was the hero the Black Ferns Sevens so desperately needed in their first match of the new campaign with the sevens veteran scoring a match-winning try against South Africa on Saturday.

The reigning world champions walked away with a thrilling win over a newly promoted South African outfit, with Hirini telling RugbyPass the team “didn’t play like New Zealand.”

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While New Zealand was able to make amends in their next pool game against Great Britain, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the women in black who lost their skipper to a troubling knee injury.

Hirini hobbled off the field at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai, and after missing out on the Black Ferns Sevens’ win over Fiji that night, the captain was on crutches by Sunday morning.

With the TV broadcast showing a smiling Hirini in the stands at the Dubai venue, Black Ferns Sevens coach Cory Sweeney suggested the worst ahead of another SVNS event next weekend.

“She sustained a knee injury yesterday so we’re just waiting for results and hopefully it’s not too bad,” Sweeney told RugbyPass after New Zealand’s semi-final win over Canada.

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“She’s not in for the rest of the tournament and highly likely to be unavailable for Cape Town as well.”

Without their inspirational skipper at the helm, the New Zealanders went on to finish the opening day of play with a perfect run of three wins from three – but those results weren’t completely convincing.

Matched up in pool play against South Africa, Great Britain and Fiji, the Black Ferns Sevens had to dig deep in their first and third match to maintain their unbeaten run.

“Pleased but not satisfied,” fan favourite Stacey Waaka told RugbyPass on Saturday evening.

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“Our coach definitely said it was a rollercoaster day and it was. We obviously started a little bit slow, came back in the second and the Fiji game was so tough – and it always is. We always love playing out Fijiana sisters.

“It’s such a physical battle and you know who’s gonna win till the end so we love those games.

“It’s cool for the fans to watch. People back home, we think, are up at 3 am watching us.”

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