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McGoverne to bring a point of difference to Matatu in Super Rugby Aupiki

By Adam Julian
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 01: Liv McGoverne poses during a Matatu 2024 Super Rugby Aupiki Headshots Session on February 01, 2024 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images for Super Rugby)

Liv McGoverne wasn’t surprised England beat the Black Ferns comprehensively in November. The Matatu first five spent a season playing for Exeter Chiefs in the Allianz Premier 15s (now called Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby).

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She scored a competition-leading 180 points as the Chiefs won 16 out of 20 games, finishing second to Gloucester-Hartpury. Additionally, the Chiefs won the Allianz Cup in April 2023, successfully defending their title from the year before.

“The Black Ferns have got some really skilled people but England’s will for revenge after the World Cup and game management was better,” McGoverne told RugbyPass.

“The big difference in that game was how England controlled field position. There is more of an emphasis on tactical kicking in England. How and where do you put the ball in better territory? From there they can go to their strong set piece.

“I love to attack but I think I can bring a genuine point of difference to the game in New Zealand. My kicking and tactical management have really improved. I think that side of things is going to become more important in the women’s game.”

Merging two different styles has made McGoverne a more complete player, and she was already very good. She played 50 games for Canterbury from 2015 to 2021 and won four Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) Premierships. She narrowly missed selection for the Rugby World Cup in 2022 as a second-five.

“I’d been so close for so many years. I just wanted to try something new and refresh my love for rugby really. I was almost sick of just being close and then being told, keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll make it.

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“I loved my time in England. The culture is very different with a more traditional leadership setup, challenging weather, and a territory-driven game. The other major difference is that the season lasts 25 weeks, and you’re paid to train all year round. In New Zealand we have Aupiki for a couple of months while most players work and then a big break before the FPC.”

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Super Rugby Aupiki starts on March 2. Matatu are the defending champions. Their top first five is Black Fern Rosie Kelly. Another Black Fern, Grace Brooker, will be tough to usurp at second five. McGoverne played the first season of Aupiki in 2022. Matatu were winless and last.

“We had a good vibe that first year, but the biggest difference I’ve noticed coming back is the coaching is better and the players are more analytical and understanding,” McGoverne observed.

“My preference is to play first five. I’ll play second if required but I think the competition is much tougher there and my skill set is better suited to bringing something different at ten. The girls have been working hard and can’t wait for the competition to start.”

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Matatu should be among the leading contenders with eight Black Ferns in the forwards. In the backs, they boast impressive Black Ferns centre Amy du Plessis and prolific try-scoring winger Martha Mataele.

However, Blacks Ferns fullback Renee Holmes and winger Grace Steinmetz are headed North to Chiefs Manawa.
Black Ferns XV youngsters Moomooga Ashley Palu, (prop) Atlanta Lolohea (hooker), Laura Bayfield (lock) and Holly Wratt-Groeneweg (flanker) are worth keeping an eye on.

Matatu start their campaign against the Blues who were last in 2023. However, Auckland won the FPC Premiership last year with tight forwards Esther Faiaoga-Tilo, Sophie Fisher and Chryss Viliko emerging as new Black Ferns. Black Ferns captain Ruahei Demant will drive the team from first five.

McGoverne studied a sports coaching degree at the University of Canterbury, before graduating in 2019. The university is where she plays her club rugby. She has been part of three senior championship-winning teams. She’s now studying a quantity surveying diploma and works in the development space with the Darfield Rugby Club.

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