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Rio Olympics 2016: Andrew Alderson - Sevens Sisters proving their worth

Kiwi rugby fans might need a manicurist to heal their gnawed fingernails, but the Sevens Sisters have marched another step towards proving their worth.

$4.9 million of taxpayer money has been invested in them via High Performance Sport New Zealand over the Rio Olympic cycle. Now, with a semi-final against Britain scheduled tomorrow morning, they are on the cusp of delivering. Two more wins and New Zealand Rugby's marketing department will need to grab their buckets to catch the sponsor offers raining in. The Go4Gold programme, which recruited Kayla McAlister and Portia Woodman from netball and Tyla Nathan-Wong from touch, is set to pay dividends.

"We grabbed netball, touch and league players over the years because we wanted high level athletes to give Rio a crack," coach Sean Horan said early in his tenure.

This writer has found the team superb ambassadors; courteous, obliging and exemplary of conduct.

The Chiefs could take note.

Even during a training and conditioning camp in Fiji in June they were the epitome of focus as they exited Nadi airport armed with tackle bags.

This morning's 5-0 win over the United States revealed the anxiety and desperation on the biggest stage of their careers. Dropped balls, forced passes and Nathan-Wong's yellow card for tackling her opponent without the ball crept in. Her two-minute exit saw a rejigged 'Six Sisters' stretched to capacity.

The 22-year-old was delighted with how her side responded.

"I put my team under a lot of pressure, but I'm so proud of what they did. There were six on the field, [USA] were five metres out from our tryline and the girls dug deep.

"We call it the honey-badger attitude, we stuck to it, [defended] well, were patient and ended up getting away with the win."

If the Herald's offices and blog of the event were any gauge, the women's side captures the public imagination. Journalists swarmed around televisions and the blog numbers grew exponentially.

Woodman, such a renowned finisher with a sniff of space, scored the match's only try.

She broke the 0-0 deadlock on halftime with a 40m burst.

Chants of "Give it to Portia" echoed across the newsroom for the rest of the match, bringing to mind memories of Jonah Lomu during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Similarly, when possession was lost the phrase "you donkey" reverberated across the Herald desks. Nothing personal, just a detonation of passion.

This Games will probably be the easiest for the New Zealand women to earn a medal. Once Olympic heavyweights like the United States get into a rhythm it will become a harder task in future.

Given the likely money on offer to recruit coaching expertise, NZR will struggle to contain their intellectual property. That makes it more important the Seven Sisters seize the day tomorrow.

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