A tough couple of hours loom for New Zealand rowers Rebecca Scown and Genevieve Behrent at the Rio Olympics.

The pair won their heat to move directly to their semifinals, winning by two seconds from South Africa.

However they are also part of the women's eight, who must take a harder route if they are to stay alive in the regatta.

The eight were second in their heat behind Britain, clocking 6min 12.05s and that sent them into a repechage. They are third fastest overall after the heats, which bodes well.

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The problem is their pair semifinal is to be raced at 11.30pm NZT on Wednesday, 80 minutes before their eights repechage.

It will be a substantial test of their stamina to be at the peak of their powers for the eights race. But Scown, a bronze medallist in the pair in London four years ago with Juliette Drysdale, isn't losing any sleep over the schedule.

"I enjoy the doubling up," she said.

"I often feel the second race is my best race so I'm happy to do it and feel pretty comfortable with it.

"We have practised that as well and it could be easier than having a large gap because you're in the moment, fired up and ready to go."

The pair were comfortable winners and were well placed in the eights heat as well until run down in the final 500m.

"You always want to win and it's not ideal coming second.

"But I also think the extra race for us will benefit us. It's the first Olympics for every girl in my squad apart from me, so you can learn a lot from that.

"We're looking forward to the repechage on Wednesday," Scown added.

At their last pre-Olympic regatta in Poland, coach Dave Thompson swapped Scown out of the stroke seat and she changed places with Emma Dyke. It was thought it was at least in part to take a little strain off London bronze medallist Scown but as they won that race, it seemed to have worked pretty well.

The first New Zealand crew to drop out of contention, of the 11 in Rio, are the men's quad, who finished last in their repechage, seven and a half seconds behind winners Germany.

The quad of Nathan Flannery, Jade Uru, George Bridgewater and John Storey, always faced an uphill job, having been a late entry into the field. They had missed selection at the final qualifying regatta in Lucerne in May but got in when the Russian quad were booted out after an athlete failed a doping test.

The lightweight women's double of Julia Edward and Sophie Mackenzie were second in their heat behind the quality Dutch pair Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head to move into the semifinals.

The men's eight were third, a couple of seconds behind heat winners Britain, and move into a repechage.