Kiwis reveal new Sevens talents
NEWS: New Zealand Rugby has revealed the names of six emerging Sevens stars selected after the national development camp.
Grace Kukutai, Renee Holmes and Isla Norman-Bell were named alongside Roderick Solo, Joel Cobb and Jona Mataiciwa as this year’s Sevens MVPs – following an intensive four days of training and testing, which culminated in a one-day tournament in Waitakere.
New Zealand Rugby’s High Performance Sevens development manager Chad Tuoro said it had been an exciting week watching talent emerge and grow.
“The athletes turned up ready to work hard and impress,” Tuoro said.
“We had players from a wide variety of backgrounds, some with a little rugby experience and others with a lot – but all of them stepped up and made the selectors’ job a difficult one.”
New Zealand Schools’ player, Wellington’s Roderick Solo (18), proved his national selection as a stand out for his team (Inferno) in the men’s final. The athletics champion, who took out top spot in the vertical jump (4.70mps), shone on tournament day as a genuine game breaker, with his explosive speed and dynamic footwork.
The 2018 MVP Isla Norman-Bell (19), was once again recognised for her skill and speed. She will be looking to make her mark at the 2020 national sevens development camp, with her first season of Farah Palmer Cup competition behind her. The Auckland Storm wing brought a big game temperament and had a major influence on her team (Inferno) taking out the final.
Jona Mataiciwa’s (18), natural talents caught the eye of the selectors early on, as his game continuity and ability to keep the ball alive impressed throughout game day. Already on the radar for national selectors having made the New Zealand Barbarian Schools’ earlier this year, the Saint Kentigern College-leaver proved he is one to watch.
Seasoned rugby player, Joel Cobb (18), impressed selectors throughout the week with his great leadership abilities both on and off the field. The Auckland-local cemented his place as a 2019 MVP thanks to his high work rate and stand out skills.
Northern Mystics netballer Grace Kukutai (22) had one of the highest work rates in the competition. She caught the eye of selectors for both her attack and defence, and had a major influence on every game she played. Tall, athletic and talented, Kukutai also impressed on combine day, topping the women’s strength test, clocking peak velocity of 1.46mps.
Gisborne’s Renee Holmes’ (19) selection follows her impressive season for Waikato in the FPC. The former national age grade footballer, pulled out of 2018 Sevens camp through injury, but this year was back stronger and fitter than ever. Holmes’ ability to work hard across all her games stood out among the 48 women.
Tuoro said while the six MVPs certainly made their mark, a number of other players who performed well will be added to a list of contenders for All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens coaches. Many of these players will be part of upcoming national and regional sevens tournaments and again have an opportunity to make a play for higher honours.
“We have identified six athletes to be part of our development camps but we have also ignited a spark in many others to keep training hard and continue their rugby journey.
“It was amazing to see the athletes develop throughout the course of the week, not only in terms of their skills on the field, but their personal growth and development off it. It’s about the complete athlete and these are all things we look for as part of the selection process in a high performance sevens environment,” Tuoro said.