Black Ferns head coach Glenn Moore is expecting no easy ride for his team when they take on the Bay of Plenty Volcanix and Auckland Storm in the Game of Three Halves tomorrow at Tauranga Domain.
The women in black will take on the Volcanix in the first 40 minutes, then the Storm in the second. A third 40 minutes featuring the Bay against Auckland rounds off the day.
The match is serving as a warmup hitout both for the Black Ferns a week out from the first of their tests against Australia in Sydney and for the two provincial teams building up to their Farrah Palmer Cup competition.
But there’s more to it than that, says Glenn. He’s expecting both opposition teams to bring plenty of intensity.
“That goes without saying. Anyone who gets an opportunity to play here is going to want to put their hand up themselves. We’ve got another team to be selected for the end of the year tour (for two tests in France in November) and I’d suggest every one of those players who get an opportunity in front of us will want to make a statement.
“I’m sure they’ll be primed ready to give more than 100% because when you come up against a team like this you find something extra somewhere. It’s no different to us going to play Australia – there’s a dislike there and you find a bit extra for the scrap somewhere.”
A hugely experienced coach who has come up through the ranks in New Zealand provincial rugby, including three years at the helm of the Highlanders, Glenn says the commitment his players bring is what has kept him involved in the women’s game since linking up with the Black Ferns after a stint with the Blues in 2015.
“An opportunity came up with the Black Ferns going to Canada, and I was asked if I would go.
“It probably wasn’t something I was looking at doing at the time but I went along and filled a role there as head coach.
“We had a successful tour there, and at the end of it I just thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed the passion that they play with and they train with. I enjoy the meaning that they have to grow the culture so signed on through to the World Cup.”
He believes the fans who come along to the domain for the game tomorrow are part of a rising tide of support for the women’s game that his team is helping develop.
“It’s an evolving time, and part of our focus is around us making a difference, not just on the field but what we do off the field as well. We have a responsibility to capture the desire of the young ones that want to be next and we realise we’re in a place where we can help influence that. We take that responsibility really seriously.”
And he believes those Bay of Plenty supporters can be proud of their two representatives in the Black Ferns team which will run out on the domain tomorrow, Renee Wickliffe and Lesley Elder.
“Both are key members of the squad, they’re very important parts of our framework.
“Both are in the leadership group in the Black Ferns, so they have a big part to play not only in how we play the game but how we build the culture of the team. Both are influencing figures.”
Without a Super Rugby equivalent and before the Farah Palmer Cup tournament has run getting a gauge on form and selection is difficult, Glenn says, so tomorrow’s occasion becomes all the more critical for him and his management team.
“We’ve got things we want to try, we’ve got combinations we want to try. We realise it’s the first hitout but the most important thing is we’ve got eight new caps in this setup and we have test spots up for grabs a week away so it’s up to everyone to put their hand up and say they want to be selected.
“The other important thing is we’re only a couple of months away from naming another team for an end of year tour so both the Auckland and Bay of Plenty teams we play against will be wanting to showcase what they’ve got as well.”
Tomorrow’s Game of Three Halves kicks off at 12 midday at Tauranga Domain. Admission is free.