Rowing New Zealand have moved into uncharted territory with both their men's and women's eights making finals at the Rio Olympics.

It's the first time women have represented New Zealand in the sport's blue riband discipline at a Games.

For the men it ends a 32-year Olympic hiatus.

The women placed third in their repechage behind Canada and Romania. They needed to finish in the top four to advance

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Rebecca Scown, Genevieve Behrent, Kerri Gowler, Grace Prendergast, Kelsey Bevan, Ruby Tew, Emma Dyke, Kayla Pratt and coxswain Francie Turner hovered mid-field throughout and never looked like exiting.

The men will also contest a final on Sunday after finishing third behind the United States and the Netherlands.

Facing the same requirements as the women to advance, they were fourth through much of the race, before finishing with vigour.

Stephen Jones, Brook Robertson, Alex Kennedy, Jonathan Wright, Isaac Grainger, Shaun Kirkham, Michael Brake, Tom Murray and coxswain Caleb Shepherd now get a chance to match the deeds of the famed 1972 New Zealand Olympic champion crew in Munich.

It capped a busy morning for Scown and Behrent, who qualified for the women's pairs final an hour earlier.

They were second behind Denmark to advance to Saturday's final, thankfully a day before the eights decider, as they seek to become the first Kiwi rowers to win two medals at the same Games regatta.

Women's lightweight double scullers Julia Edward and Sophie Mackenzie followed suit, also placing second in their semifinal.

The world champions were fifth through most of the first 1000m before improving over the second half to finish behind South Africa.

The men's lightweight four of James Hunter, Alistair Bond, Peter Taylor and James Lassche finished fifth in their final, 7.63s behind winners Switzerland.

They were looking to put New Zealand on the podium for the first time in the discipline.

Denmark, France and Italy filled the second, third and fourth positions respectively.

The Kiwi quartet won both their World Cups at Lucerne and Poznan this season but suffered injury disruptions with Matthew Dunham filling in for Taylor.

They were fourth at last year's world championships.

A light breeze wafted across Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon but there was no delay to start times, bringing relief to organisers who had to postpone two of the five days.

- additional reporting AAP