Of the last 93 test matches the Black Ferns Sevens have played, the Tauranga-based team has lost just three.

Those losses may seem like a small number in the overall scheme of things, but head coach Allan Bunting says they have been a big focus in their growth.

"We revisit, you know, that defeat quite a bit because we got a lot of learnings out of that, and that's really shaped us," Bunting says.

And that shaping has helped them become the success they are today.


Their latest accolade comes in the form of making history as the first rugby team to be awarded the New Zealand Olympic Committee's (NZOC) most prestigious award, the Lonsdale Cup.

It's an award that is presented annually to the athlete or team that has made the most outstanding contribution to an Olympic or Commonwealth Sport and on Monday night the New Zealand Women's Rugby Sevens team, represented by Tyla Nathan-Wong, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison, Rhiarna Ferris, Huia Harding and Shiray Kaka, was named as this year's recipient at the Olympic Gala Dinner in Auckland.

Tenika Willison, Tyla Nathan Wong, Niall Williams, Shiray Kaka and Rhiarna Ferris of the Black Ferns Sevens with the Lonsdale Cup. Photo / Getty Images
Tenika Willison, Tyla Nathan Wong, Niall Williams, Shiray Kaka and Rhiarna Ferris of the Black Ferns Sevens with the Lonsdale Cup. Photo / Getty Images

It comes after a year of inspiring and dominant performances.

The Black Ferns Sevens took the Rugby World Cup Sevens title, claimed five World Series titles and won gold at the Commonwealth Games, a highlight of the Gold Coast games thanks to Kelly Brazier running 90-metres to score and win the final in extra time.

NZOC chief executive Kereyn Smith said "the women's sevens win really was a stand-out" from the many incredible performances at the Commonwealth Games.

In presenting the award, Minister for Sport Grant Robertson described the Black Ferns Sevens team as "ground-breakers for women's sport, role models for girls and young women across the country and overall a generous, community-focused and inspirational team".

The team has lost only one game this calendar year and won 39 matches in a row, taking out all of their World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments this season with the latest being at the Dubai Sevens at the weekend.

Since Bunting took over as coach just over two years ago, they have gained from the 90 test matches they have won but they "spend a lot of time in those three losses" and will continue to do so because Bunting says that's where they gain the most.


He is extremely proud of his team and the success they have achieved, ensuring not to take any credit for himself, saying "it's about all the people we have in our group, we've got an amazing management group, the players, the leadership, you know they're just real people and with a growth mindset".

And despite all of their successes to date, Bunting says they have plenty more to offer.

"I know that everything sort of gets measured by outcome and winning but we have a purpose everywhere we go and that's to leave mana in our wake and that's through hard work and being humble and leadership," Bunting says.

"... everywhere we've sort of been this year we've left mana in our wake and we're really sort of living our vision.

"It's been a good year but we still know in our team that we can sort of achieve anything we put our mind to, and there's still a whole lot more growth left in us."

He says the players know that and turn up every day with motivation and determination.

While being the first rugby team to win the accolade is a bit overwhelming, Bunting says the team is grateful and feel proud of the achievement.

Captain Sarah Goss said the team couldn't have achieved the results without support from friends, family, support staff and fans.

"It's great to be recognised with this award and it's just made us even more excited for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games."

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said the significant recognition was thoroughly deserved.

"This is a team that demonstrates our rugby values in everything they do on and off the field and it is fantastic to see that recognised by the New Zealand Olympic Committee," Tew said.