NZ women's sevens squad set to be named

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 16/07/2012
Chyna Hohepa
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
NEW BREED: Waikato’s Chyna Hohepa is one of a new breed of women’s sevens players giving the sport a crack with the hope of going to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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Chyna Hohepa has concentrated on netball and touch in the past but the Te Awamutu 22-year-old has been drawn to rugby sevens by the lure of playing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Hohepa was one of 31 women and girls who took part in the second national camp in Hamilton at the weekend as New Zealand coach Sean Horan narrows down his options as part of the Go4Gold programme.

The first national team will be selected this week to contest the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) tournament in Fiji at the start of next month.

Waikato was represented by six players at the latest three-day camp at Hamilton Boys' High School, including Hohepa, Jordon Webber, Azania Watene, Crystal Kaua and Black Ferns Victoria Grant and Teresa Te Tamaki. Only Auckland, with seven, had more representatives.

Three other Waikato players attended the first camp at Waiouru.

Horan said Hohepa, whose older sister, Carla, was the IRB women's player of the year in 2010 when the Black Ferns won the women's Rugby World Cup and whose father, Selwyn, and mother, Debbie, both represented Waikato, was a promising talent.

"Chyna is following in [Carla's] footsteps and bringing a lot of humour and a lot of quality to our programme, while also having that ability that we're after," he said.

Hohepa said the new national women's sevens programme was an exciting attraction, after already having represented New Zealand in open women's sevens.

"I heard about it, because I'd just started playing 15s this year to get a bit of competition and thought I had a big opportunity of making the sevens squad and going to the Olympics," Hohepa said. "My sister said to have a go and I definitely had the skill level and just needed to learn about the game, so I thought I'd give it a shot."

The Rio Olympics was the main carrot for all the players trying out for the team with more than 1000 women and girls registering initially for the Go4Gold programme, narrowed down through the work of 14 provincial unions over the last seven or eight months.

"The camp has just been amazing. I've loved it from day one since we got here, it's a great team environment.

"There's a family feeling about it and it's a great opportunity, which I'm taking, to learn what I can in these three days. I've never learnt so much," Hohepa said.

Horan said the camp had been highly successful and the character of the participants had been particularly impressive.

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"Over the last two camps we've seen 45 pretty special athletes from around New Zealand.

"I think the oldest girls we screened was 37 all the way down to a 15-year-old and the majority of the squad now come from diverse sporting backgrounds.

"We have a few rugby players who have played 15s, a few of them who have played sevens, footballers, athletics, netball, hockey, touch, league - just numerous."

Horan said they would continue to develop a squad of up to 30 players after tournaments in Fiji and Dubai to which 12 players will travel this year.

Horan also hoped to see regional tournaments and competitions developed in New Zealand. Three regional-based tournaments next month will finish off the initial part of the Go4Gold programme.

- Waikato Times

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