Revamped HSBC SVNS: Women's Rugby 2023-2024 Season Preview

Jorja

The HSBC SVNS features seven regular-season events plus a Grand Final. The top eight placed teams based on cumulative series points at the conclusion of the seventh round in Singapore will secure their opportunity to compete in the new ‘winner takes all’ Grand Final in Madrid, where the women’s and men’s HSBC SVNS 2024 champions will be crowned.

Madrid will also play host to the high stakes relegation play-off competition where teams ranked ninth to 12th will join the top four teams from the World Rugby Sevens Challenger, with the top four placed teams securing their place on HSBC SVNS 2025.

The Black Ferns Sevens are the reigning title holders and have won 36 consecutive matches. Can they maintain their edge? A plethora of outstanding individual talent will have something to say about that.

Check out seven stars to watch in the 2023-24 season:

Jorja Miller (New Zealand) - Miller created history in November when the 19-year-old signed a four-year contract with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Black Ferns Sevens through to 2027.

The World Rugby Sevens rookie of the year burst onto the international scene with her selection in the Black Ferns Sevens for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in September 2022. 

She featured in all seven World Series tournaments through 2022-23, was named in the tournament dream team on four occasions, and was also named player of the final in Sydney.

"I think it is just testament to the effort and the pathways the older girls have paved, both in 15s and sevens, and I think us women deserve it, so it will be cool to see, hopefully in the future, the other girls getting longer-term contracts and committing to New Zealand Rugby,” Miller said of her contract.

Jasmine Joyce (Great Britain) - With 31 Tests in fifteens for Wales and 80 tries in 111 matches on the World Series circuit for Great Britain Joyce is a proven performer. Twice in Rio and Tokyo she has finished fourth in the Olympics and will be determined to go at least one better in Paris in 2024.

Joyce is one of the best outside back defenders in the women's game. In a recent Test for Wales against the Black Ferns she made try-saving tackles on Ruahei Demant, Ruby Tui, Amy du Plessis, Mererangi Paul, Iritana Hohaia and Sylvia Brunt distinguishing herself in a heavy defeat.

Maddison Levi (Australia) - Maddison and her sister Teagan Levi are set to become the faces of the Australian women's Sevens team, the pair signing contracts until 2026.

Maddison is the better-known of the pair at present twice nominated for World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year.

Last season Australia managed to defeat the Black Ferns in Dubai to win the opening event. Despite not tasting another Cup triumph Levi was deadly scoring a season record 57 tries which eclipses the record set by Portia Woodman of 52 in 2015. Maddison also played in the women's AFL for Gold Coast.

Viniana Riwai (Fiji) – Riwai is one of Fiji's most accomplished female athletes. The national representative in football has switched seamlessly across to Sevens for the last decade. The halfback is a two-time Olympian, Commonwealth Games silver medallist, and two-time World Cup participant.

Riwai was first spotted playing Sevens from the local women's rugby team Marist Seahawks, and she debuted for Fiji in 2013. The pinnacle of her career was winning a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Fiji has never beaten the Black Ferns in 20 matches but has plenty of individual threats. Reapi Ulunisau, who made 78 tackles, 28 breaks, 76 offloads and 152 carries in 2022-2023 won the DHL Impact Player award – for demonstrating the most consistency and delivering the greatest impact against four key criteria – carries, offloads, line-breaks, and tackles.  

Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Ireland) – The electric Irish winger has twice finished the leading try scorer in a World Series season and with 164 tries stands fourth on the all-time list. Following a brief foray in sprinting, Murphy Crowe was selected for the Munster Senior 15s side aged 18 and was identified as a talent for the Irish Sevens. In 2021 she made her senior fifteens debut.

Fancy Bermudez (Canada) - Bermudez has made a huge impression in fifteens in 2023. She was named in Canada's squad for their Test against the Springbok women and scored a hat-trick on debut in the 66-7 win in Madrid. More impressively she was named Player of the Match in the 29-20 victory over France in the WXV 1 in Auckland. Canada had lost to France 36-0 at the Rugby World Cup less than a year earlier. Bermudez debuted for Canada in Sevens in 2021. She featured in the 2022 Rugby World Cup and models her game on legend Jen Kish.

Ilona Maher (USA) – Maher was the only individual not from Australia or New Zealand to be named in the HSBC Dream Team in 2022-23. Maher is one of the most colourful and dynamic players on the circuit. In 132 matches she has scored 52 tries. The nursing graduate from Vermont is a powerhouse centre.

“I think what is important about rugby is that every body type has a role. Everybody can bring a different skill. I am really big, and I bring the skins of power and speed. I have short teammates and slender teammates who bring agility and other skills,” Maher said.

Off the pitch, Maher has a big presence on social media. She’s got over 300,000 Instagram followers and has been enlisted by TEDx Talks, Shape magazine and Access Hollywood.

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