New Zealand captain Sarah Goss believes that cultivating a family atmosphere has helped propel the squad on their current HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series winning streak.
The Black Ferns Sevens touched down in Dubai on the back of 24 consecutive World Series victories and four straight tournament wins. If you include the team’s successful Rugby World Cup Sevens and Commonwealth Games campaigns, the number of matches won rises to 33.
At the heart of that run is a group of players who have forged connections on and off the pitch.
“We have such a good bond at the moment and the team is so close,” Goss said. “We call each other sisters, that’s what we feel like and that’s what we are.
“A lot of us hang out with each other back home and are good friends and I think that close bond helps make this a special team.
Special to watch
“I think you can see that out on the field with the way the different combinations work.”
Goss travelled to Dubai via Monaco, where she was nominated alongside team-mates Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman for the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC.
Once Blyde and Goss had done some sightseeing in the principality – “a huge eye opener and a lot different to what I am used to back home” – it was the former who scooped the award, the first player to do so twice following her success in 2017.
“She has been awesome,” Goss said of Blyde, who needs just four tries in Dubai to become the second New Zealand player and fifth overall in series history to score 100 tries.
“To be able to watch her grow as a player, as a team-mate and as a person has been really special.
“Obviously winning the sevens award last year was a big thing for her and her family and she was really proud about that.
“She is definitely going to score 100 tries. If she doesn’t, there is something wrong!”
Despite the squad’s incredible form and the accolades flowing their way, disappointment and frustration still lingers for the Black Ferns Sevens from their performance in Dubai a year ago.
A 14-12 Cup quarter-final defeat to the USA – which came less than 14 hours after they had beaten the Americans 45-14 – helped consign them to fifth, a result that proved costly as Australia wrapped up the 2018 series title by two points.
WATCH 🎥 Coach Allan Bunting discusses the talking points of the #BlackFerns7s team named to play in Dubai, with Risi Pouri-Lane set to make her debut.— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) November 27, 2018
FULL TEAM: https://t.co/WiNulwJun2#Dubai7spic.twitter.com/QChQSdFXHu
“It was disappointing last year,” Goss added. “We thought we were in a good spot until we lost that quarter-final but that’s what happens sometimes with sevens. Sometimes you think you’re ahead and then it just falls away at the last second.
“We have done a lot of work and obviously we’ve had success in Colorado and to be able to build on that in the next few days will be massive for us.”
New Zealand, who kick off their Pool A campaign against Kenya on Thursday, will be without Woodman as they target redemption in Dubai, after she ruptured her Achilles in training earlier this month.
Goss admitted losing the World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year 2017 to a serious injury was a “massive blow” but she is confident the Black Ferns Sevens squad is strong enough to cope.
“It is a huge opportunity for someone to stand up,” she said. “They are going to get a lot more game time than they probably would have got if she was around and I have full faith in whoever comes in.
“We have got the likes of Alena Saili, I’ve seen her play a lot of tournaments for us, while Shakira Baker brings a huge dynamic for us and there’s also Stacey Waaka who is coming off a successful 15s campaign.
“All three of them are really different but bring a lot to our team.”
The Black Ferns Sevens squad boasts four changes to the one that finished fifth in Dubai 12 months ago, including debutant Risi Pouri-Lane who will become the 77th woman to represent her country at sevens little more than a month after captaining New Zealand to Youth Olympic Games gold in Buenos Aires.
“I just hope the girls are excited for Dubai. For some it will be their first time of playing there. When you run out at that stadium with a crowd full of people, it is pretty special and pretty hard to hear your team-mates.”