SVNS Season Finale: High Stakes and High Hopes in Madrid

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The Spanish Sevens were last held in 2022 with two tournaments on consecutive weekends in January that year. 

South Africa won back-to-back titles in Spain, defeating Argentina in the final at Málaga and Australia in the final at Seville.

On the women’s side of the draw USA beat Russia 35-10 in the Cup final at the first event. Australia won the second event edging Ireland, in their first Cup final, 17-12. New Zealand didn’t compete due to Covid.

The Black Ferns Sevens won the 2023-24 SVNS league title with four Cup successes in row in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Singapore. 

Captain Risi Pouri-Lane expects more success in Spain. That can only be achieved with a clean slate mentally. 

“We know that everything that happened before doesn’t matter, it’s who comes in and shows up on the weekend,” Pouri-Lane said.

“The mentality is definitely that we can’t take any game lightly, and we never do but I guess the mentality here is it’s the top eight teams and every game is going to be a challenge but we’re here to take it out.”

Jorja Miller was player of the final in the Singapore Sevens. She told LockerRoom this week that “connection” is the biggest reason for the Black Ferns Sevens success.

“When the travelling group gets back, and everyone [in the squad] is back together, it’s like one big family. There’s no feeling of envy … everyone wants to strive and win together. Connection is massive,” she says.

“Our vision is to be the greatest team and really imprint our mark on history – which is pretty big, but we’ve got the group to do that.”

There is only one change to the Black Ferns Sevens with Tenika Willison coming in for the injured Shiray Kaka. Coach Cory Sweeney said the winner-takes-all tagline does not change their approach.

“Every time we wear the black jersey we want to perform; this is no different. We have managed the last few weeks really well, we want to use Madrid as an opportunity to strengthen combinations, feel and deal with pressure and perform.”

The All Blacks Sevens welcome the return of Akuila Rokolisoa, who missed the last three tournaments through injury and add experience with the return of Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, and Joe Webber.

The All Blacks Sevens won the last two tournaments in Hong Kong and Singapore, but Argentina took overall league honours. 

All Black Sevens captain Dylan Collier scored a try in the tense Hong Kong final win over France. 

“For us, we’re just building. Just trying to build every tournament, trying to get better every tournament,” Collier said.

“Our main goal is the Olympics, it’s to win that so this is just another step.

“If we can, and obviously we’re going to try and win this tournament, it’s just going to instill a lot more confidence and build a lot more momentum for us heading into that Olympic tournament.”

Turn on a dime is an expression that fits the high-octane drama of international sevens. Navigating sudden shifts in emotions are aided by the support of teammates. In the All Blacks Sevens brothers Kitiona and Cody Vai can lean on each other, and brotherly love was invaluable at the Singapore Sevens in May.

Kitiona returned to the roster for his first tournament since London in May 2022. He had fractured his fibula and dislocated his ankle suffering complications with an infected plate in his recovery. 

Initially, at least, Kitiona was fighting fit. He scored two tries, including an extra-time winner, in pool play against Canada and then bagged another double in the 28-12 thumping of Australia in the semi-final. Tragically in the 17-14 win against Ireland in the final he repeated the same injury and will miss the Olympics.

In that Singapore final, Cody made an elementary handling error inside his own 22 with a minute remaining.

“I wanted to test our defence,” Cody laughed.

“We made it hard for ourselves, but we've got a lot of trust in each other. Next job”

Tone Ng Shiu would have his Sam Whitelock moment by winning the last breakdown turnover to deny Ireland winning their first cup tournament. Ireland finished second to Argentina in the SVNS league standings with New Zealand third.

In Los Angeles New Zealand didn’t make the cup quarter finals. Vai said a “different” and “intense” preparation led to better outcomes in Hong Kong.

“My second win in Hong Kong was a bit more special. Some of the boys have never won in Hong Kong. To win with them is a better feeling. They’ve been in the team so long.”


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