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Hurricanes sign Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini for women's team

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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The Hurricanes have unveiled Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini as the franchise’s first-ever signing for its new women’s team.

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A genuine star of the women’s game, Hirini brings a plethora of accolades with her to the Hurricanes, including a 2020 Olympics gold medal, a 2016 Olympics silver medal, two Sevens World Cup titles, a 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal and six World Sevens Series titles.

The 28-year-old also has experience in the XV-a-side game, having featured prominently for the Black Ferns in their 2017 World Cup triumph and was the first woman to be awarded the Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year in 2019.

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Beauden Barrett on 100 games for the All Blacks, Jarvo and beating Wales in Cardiff
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Beauden Barrett on 100 games for the All Blacks, Jarvo and beating Wales in Cardiff

That same year, Hirini was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to rugby, and it’s that calibre that Hurricanes women’s head coach Wes Clarke is excited to have in his playing squad next year.

“She’s deeply committed to the Hurricanes and the Manawatu region,” Clarke said of Hirini, who is a flanker in 15s.

“Every chance she gets she always plays for Manawatu even though she lives in the Mount. There was never any discussion about her playing for anyone else. She is always coming back to this region.

“Not only is she really passionate about the region, she’s an outstanding leader, and naturally commands the respect of everyone she works with.”

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“She’s an extremely intelligent rugby player. I always think back to the World Cup where she was asked to do some homework on the back moves, in her position as a 7.

“We asked her to do this at dinner, and then walking to breakfast the following morning, we jokingly asked her a couple of questions and she had learned all of them overnight in detail.

“So, this speaks firstly of her intelligence to understand it all, but secondly her work rate.”

Hirini said the opportunity to play in the inaugural edition of Super Rugby Aupiki was too good to pass up as she continues to build her case for inclusion in next year’s Black Ferns World Cup squad.

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“It’s a huge honour to play for the region I grew up in and the club I’ve supported for a very long time,” she said.

“I’m from Manawatu, born and bred down there, went to Feilding High School, and although I have recently moved away from the region, I still represent them and play for them.

“I’m just super excited for Super Rugby Aupiki to be going ahead. A lot of people have put in a lot of work to make sure that this competition goes ahead next year.

“It’s been a long time coming and I just know that this is a great step forward, creating so much exposure for the women’s game.

“Also, next year being so exciting with the World Cup in New Zealand it’s just going to keep flying that momentum behind the game.

“It’s going to be an amazing opportunity to play alongside girls from different regions that I’ve played against for the Manawatu Cyclones, so I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to represent the Hurricanes next year.”

Hirini made note of her eagerness to work alongside Clarke, who she was coached by in the Black Ferns squad, at the Hurricanes.

“He’s an awesome coach. I’ve worked with Wes for a several years now and in a number of different teams so to be coached by him again in the Super Rugby Aupiki competition is going to be a massive opportunity for me.

“Each time I’ve been coached by him I’ve gained so much knowledge about the game but also a lot of knowledge about the technical and tactical sides of the game.”

News of Hirini’s arrival at the Hurricanes comes hours after the Chiefs announced Ruby Tui had signed with the Hamilton-based franchise for the 2022 Super Rugby Aupiki season.

The Super Rugby Aupiki squads and draw for next year will be announced in the coming days.

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