Napier Tech pair Jennifer Simati and Tori Iosefo are one step closer to making next year's Rugby World Cup with Samoa's Manusina, the national women's rugby team.
The Manusina thrashed Tonga 40-0 in Auckland a fortnight ago to book a spot at the final repechage qualifying tournament, where they join World Cup hosts New Zealand, Australia and Wales in Pool A.
Winger Iosefo (25) made her international debut in the match and scored two tries in the first half.
Her family is from the villages of Satalo and Leulumoega but she was born and raised in Hastings and said she was really excited in the leadup to the game.
"I just wanted to hurry up and play, I had so much fun," Iosefo said.
"I think we went in really well prepared, good attitude, a lot of positivity."
Jennifer Simati, a 23-year-old from the villages of Fasito'o Uta & Fatausi, was one of four players in the squad not picked in the matchday 23.
But the Auckland-born, Napier raised prop has been a part of every Manusina campaign since the programme was revived in 2018 after years of inactivity.
She said it has been awesome seeing the team progress over that time.
"The past two years we had a lot of girls from outside of New Zealand, from Australia, USA, Samoa," Simati said.
That wasn't the case this time thanks to Covid and related border restrictions, but the prop said it provided an opportunity for younger up-and-comers here.
"An extra one from Hawke's Bay, more from Wellington, the first player to come out of Northland, Tasman," Simati said, noting Manusina player base grows with every campaign.
She said the coaches had been asking her to pass on Iosefo's number since 2018 so they could recruit her to play for Samoa too.
"I turned them down because I just had Black Ferns in my head," Iosefo said.
"I had to have a big talk with my husband, big talk with my coaches, my mates and just ask myself, 'am I Black Ferns level'."
The winger decided to go for it when the Manusina called on her again this time.
"I wasn't getting any younger, and I just wanted to do something before I hang my boots up, something amazing," she said.
And the game against Tonga was just that for Iosefo, who said it was everything she hoped for and way more.
"It's just such a beautiful team to be a part of."
Simati said no other side has the culture the Manusina has, and you can feel it as soon as you step into the team hotel during a campaign.
"If we're putting on the black jersey [of New Zealand's Black Ferns], what are we playing for?" she said.
"Unlike putting on that blue jersey, we're playing for our country, we're playing for our family, our kids.
"You can go out on the field with that feeling that you're playing for something, you wanna play hard."
When they are not playing rugby for Napier Tech, the Hawke's Bay Tui or Samoa, the pair both work as teacher aides; Iosefo at Flaxmere Primary School and Simati at William Colenso College.