When it comes to speed, power and beauty, there are none better than Rotorua's Jimi-Leigh McLean and Hana Tapiata.

The duo are part of the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's women's sevens team who will be taking part in this weekend's Bayleys National Sevens at the Rotorua National Stadium.

McLean, 18 and a Tuhoe/Te Arawa descendant, is the youngest in the team of 12 and has only been playing the sport for two years.

"There were a few older ladies that I play touch with who kind of told me to [try sevens]. I went down a Bay training with them and the coach asked me to play."


The former Western Heights High School student is in the team for her pace.

"I don't actually have a set position, my coach just puts me anywhere I'm needed, mostly hooker, halfback and winger."

McLean loves the fast action of sevens and said it suited her style of play.

"I think I like that it is similar to the game of touch and because I have a lot of room to run around and lots of space to move, which I pretty much like."

It will be McLean's first nationals and she has mixed emotions about the upcoming event being played in her home town.

"Yeah, I'm pretty nervous about that. Me being one of the younger ones in the team, it's pretty hard to try and step up. I really have had to push myself hard.

"Playing in front of a home crowd will be pretty nerve-racking. But it will be good for [the team] to have that support."

With Manawatu women's team taking out last year's title and Auckland also looking strong, the Bay team are underdogs for their home tournament but McLean said they will not be holding back for the two-day tournament.


"I think this is what our team has been trying to build towards. We're ranked the ninth seeds from 10 teams. So we kind of hope people will take us lightly and we will come out on the day firing."

Although McLean has had plenty of support from family and friends, she said it had been great sharing the experience of building for the tournament with her teammate Tapiata.

"We have a good team spirit. We go with each other over to training and stuff. Even though she is [21], she is one of our most experienced players. But she is really someone to look up to and she leads from the front."

Sixteen men's teams will compete and the women's competition has been expanded with 10 teams taking part, up from six last year.

Hawke's Bay, Auckland and Canterbury are seeded top of the men's competition after winning regional qualifying tournaments and head their respective pools. Northland, runners up to Auckland in the northern region qualifying tournament last weekend, head the other men's pool. On the women's side of the draw, current national champions Manawatu, along with northern region winners Auckland, head each of the two women's pools.

With it being only the second time the nationals having held a women's division, it will be Tapiata's first nationals as well.


"We didn't qualify last year - but it's pretty exciting to be competing [at home]."

Tapiata, a Ngati Porou/Te Arawa descendant, is what you would call the powerhouse in the team.

When she goes in for the tackle, most opponents keep a weary eye out for Tapiata next time they get the ball.

Priding herself on her defence, the 21-year-old bachelor of arts and geography student said she had been working hard leading up to the tournament. "I've been trying to work on ... my speed and fitness.

"I don't usually worry about my weight and stuff and I eat [well] anyway.

"I've kind of got faster and stronger in the last few months."


Tapiata said that, with the team spread across the region, it has made it hard to train together as much as they would like to.

But the team had set themselves some high goals.

"It will be definitely to make it to the Sunday, because the top four go through.

"Yeah, to take it out would have to be the main goal. "

The women's team are in Pool A, which includes Manawatu, Canterbury, Taranaki and Counties Manukau, with their first match kicking off at 12.25pm against Canterbury.

The men's team are in Pool D, which includes Tasman, Northland and Counties Manukau. Their first match against Tasman kicks off at 12.45pm.


The Rotorua Daily Post will have up to date online coverage of the sevens on this site and on the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page.