Eleven months planning and preparing have gone into this – a one-off World Cup semifinal against England.

Noeline Taurua has improved the Silver Ferns since her belated promotion to the top job last August, following the disappointing Commonwealth Games campaign, but everything about her short-term rebuild is geared for this pinnacle event, this match.

With a demanding focus on standards and fitness tied to selection, Taurua's intent to oversee a culture of ownership and honesty is beginning to reach fruition.

Now the Ferns reach their defining juncture.

Advertisement

Taurua was always racing the clock, and so on the road to Liverpool, results have been secondary.

She held auditions through the Taini Jamison, Constellation Cup and Quad Series before settling on a 12-strong squad she believed could restore pride to the black dress.

Under Taurua, the Ferns have attempted to time their run – the character to fight back from eight down to within one missed shot of tying their final group game against Australia hinting at renewed resolve.

Silver Ferns Coach Noeline Taurua. Photo / George Novak.
Silver Ferns Coach Noeline Taurua. Photo / George Novak.

At the pointy end of an 11-month transformation, they must lift further.

For all their steps forward, the Ferns are now asked to knock England out of their home World Cup.

After contesting all five World Cup finals since 1999, historical expectations rest on the Ferns.

Yet reaching the final this time would be a quantum leap from where this group started.

"This is it for us and for them," Taurua said. "We've got to take that mentality that both teams are on the line and not roll over. Physically and mentally, we've got to be in there right from the start and put our presence out there."

Advertisement

Uncertainty surrounding the futures of Taurua, who is yet to commit beyond this campaign, captain Laura Langman and star shooter Maria Folau adds to the occasion.

Casey Kopua, the intercept queen behind many previous feats of this magnitude, is the only squad member to confirm her post-tournament retirement.

Folau and Langman could yet follow.

Either way, it is almost certainly their last World Cup. The experienced trio will be pivotal in attempting to shape an upset.

"Whether we won this game or not, we were both going through, so there's a little bit of that," Kopua said after the loss to Australia. "We didn't bring out best game, either, and we still only lost by one, so that's how I feel about that. There's definitely still more to come. We had patches to show what we do have.

Ameliaranne Ekenasio of New Zealand takes a shot at goal. Photo / Getty Images.
Ameliaranne Ekenasio of New Zealand takes a shot at goal. Photo / Getty Images.

"We just need to do it a bit more often with the storm that's going on around us."

England feel primed to not just push past the Ferns but perform the double after stunning Australia to claim Commonwealth Games gold.

They last lost to the Ferns in 2017 and in a passionate cauldron such as this, with piercing screams throughout the 60 minutes, any upset will require a supreme collective hold-the-nerve effort.

There is, however, reason for the Ferns to believe.

Much debate has centred on which side of the draw was preferable. With South Africa and Jamaica, initially it seemed England had the tougher tests. but they are yet to face the intensity and quality New Zealand and Australia concocted in their final group match.

"That's a toss of the coin," legendary Australia turned South Africa coach Norma Plummer opined of the Ferns-England semifinal after her side's 11-goal defeat.

"When we played, yeah, England looked fantastic. That won't happen against the others. New Zealand will cover all those gaps, so it could be anyone's game.

"I don't think you can underestimate New Zealand. They play a different game to us."

England are supremely confident but there could also be nerves.

Taurua has the ability make changes and at any point flip New Zealand's approach. Whether that's pushing Bailey Mes into the shooting circle for more movement or switching Kopua on to different shooters, these tweaks altered momentum against Australia.

Ironically similar mass rotation was one major criticism of Janine Southby's tenure – yet in the loss to Australia, it worked for the Ferns.

"You can't just have seven, because if they don't work, then what are you going to do? That's something we've really worked on and is different to any other World Cup, having that full 12," Kopua said. "It's nice when you sit on the side, you can see things happening, and then you have the opportunity to go out on court."

Withstand England's inevitable opening onslaught, stay in the fight to minimise goal swings, start the second half with intent, and maybe the Ferns could turn home advantage into a tense pressure cooker for the home favourites.

"They're gold medallists from the Commonwealth Games and have done a lot in terms of raising the profile of our sport over here," Taurua said. "The crowd does make a difference, but then you've got to deliver, which can give pressure either way."

As New Zealand's sporting hearts slowly recover from recent suspense, one way or the other, the Ferns seem set to spark more palpitations.