Kaipo Olsen-Baker's remarkable return to the Black Ferns

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On her Test debut against Australia in Tauranga that year, she showed her considerable potential by scoring a try when the score was 10-10. She burst 20-metres off the back of the scrum, casting aside several defenders in an electrifying burst in torrential rain.

“To this day I think about that try and go Wow. I’d never played in weather like that before. I was drenched my clothes making me even heavier than I am,” Olsen-Baker laughed.

“I don’t think too much when I play. I observe what’s in front of me and react instinctively. I wouldn’t have scored that try without the support of my teammates. They allowed me to play with confidence.” 

The Black Ferns won the match 23-10 with Olsen-Baker named player of the match. It was the first of a dozen victories in the calendar year of 2022.

In May, Olsen-Baker was back to torment Australia - 27 carries and nine tackles were part of her powerhouse contribution to a 67-19 win over the Wallaroos to conclude the Pacific Four Series in May. The New Zealand Hearld acclaimed. 

“Kaipo Olsen-Baker’s stocks surely surged as she started at No 8. Olsen-Baker dominated the game through the middle and was a force off the back of attacking scrums, scoring the opening try of the game and setting up others.”

“That was a special Test because of the growing connection between the girls throughout Pac-Four, but also my family drove eight hours from Gisborne to be in the stands for the game, which is really emotional,” Olsen-Baker said.

“Australia is a really good side. They’ve got attacking threats all over the park. We expect them to come out fizzing this Sunday.”

The Wallaroos host the Black Ferns in a one-off Laurie O’Reilly Cup Test in Ballymore, Brisbane. Australia thrashed Fijiana 64-5 at Allianz Stadium last Saturday with Desiree Miller crossing for four tries to become the first Wallaroo since Ruan Sims in 2006 against South Africa to accomplish that feat. 

The Black Ferns have never lost in 26 internationals to Australia, but are seeking more consistent ruthlessness. The Pacific Four series didn’t yield the expected silverware after the shock 22-19 loss to Canada in Christchurch. Olsen-Baker came off the reserves bench in that international and made 16 determined carries.

“That was a very tough game that forced us back to the drawing board and forced us to address when we needed to improve,” Olsen-Baker said.

“The coaches told us to play more freely, see the space and go for it whether that be kicking, passing or running. We needed to better nail our basics and set pieces too. 

“It’s an unusual position being on the sidelines and not being able to make an impact. You see things you think you can improve, and the pressure builds. When I got on, I just wanted to bring it.”

Olsen-Baker certainly brought it in 2023. Following a solid Super Rugby Aupiki campaign for the Hurricanes Poua, Olsen-Baker was imperious for Manawatū in the Farah Palmer Cup. The Cyclones beat every team en route to the championship final which they narrowly lost to Northland. Olsen-Baker was nominated for FPC Player of the Year and topped the charts for most carries (113), most defenders beaten (69) and most offloads (26).

Seeking a “different challenge” and “new environment” she shifted to Matatū for Super Rugby Aupiki Olsen-Baker ranked in the top ten for carries (59), defenders beaten (19), metres gained (286) and offloads (9) storming her way back into the Black Ferns. She returned in the 57-5 drubbing of the USA in May. 

Olsen-Baker initially burst onto the scene in 2019 making the Manawatu Cyclones out of Manakura, the current national secondary schools girls champions. 

Her family hails from Rangitukia, north of Tikitiki on the East Coast. Olsen-Baker believes she’s related to rugby royalty. 

“I think I’m a distant relation to George Nepia. Everyone says that up the Coast but I’m pretty sure it’s legit. The park, the church, the school. It’s special, the whole George Nepia thing. I know he means a lot.”


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