With four older rugby playing brothers, including All Black Lima, it is little surprise that Queen Margaret College’s Sopoaga sisters are turning heads on the rugby field.
Older sister Te Araroa (year 13) and Naomi (year 10) were both in top form for their school side in Monday’s Wellington Condor 7s qualifying tournament, helping their team book one of two places on offer for the national tournament in December.
QMC will join 2016 national Condors champions St Mary’s College in Auckland in early December, after St Mary’s beat QMC 26-10 to win their fifth straight Wellington final.
“We were just really happy to qualify for Auckland and play in the national tournament. For all of us as a group, it is just another chance for us to play together in another tournament and hopefully we can do well,” said Te Araroa.
The team only came together for the first time this year for Monday’s tournament. The last rugby they played together and that most of them played at all was last year’s Condors qualifiers.
“Last year we won a few games but just missed in a couple more. We lost to St Mary’s and Sacred Heart and didn’t get to the semis.”
On Monday, QMC opened their tournament with a 20-5 win over Sacred Heart College, before beating St Mary’s 10-7 in their second game, that saw St Mary’s pressing hard in the dying stages before a length of the field breakout try to Paris Lokotui won the match. QMC then beat Wellington East 22-0 and then the St Mary’s second team 24-10 in the semi-final.
In the final, St Mary’s 1 burst out of the gates to establish a three-try lead and went on to win. Te Araroa scored for QMC just before halftime, but St Mary’s sealed victory with another second half try.
“After the semi-final, we knew we had qualified for the Condors so playing St Mary’s in the final was a good learning curve for us and we took a lot out of it,” enthused Te Araroa.
This will be QMC’s first taste of the Condors, but some of the players won’t be lacking for big game experience having excelled on the national stage in other codes such as basketball and netball.
Te Araroa spent much of this season playing netball for QMC in the defensive circle with Paris Lokotui who was selected as part of the NZSS netball squad earlier this year.
QMC finished fifth in Wellington and 17th of 32 teams and won the Plate final over Lytton High School in September’s Lower North Island Netball Tournament.
Te Araroa plays as a small forward in basketball and was a key member of their team that finished fifth at the AA Nationals in Palmerston North at the start of October, after being runner-up to Sacred Heart New Plymouth in the Zone qualifiers.
“We lost our quarter-final match at basketball nationals by 2 against Westlake Girls’ High School. Before that we won all our games and topped our pool and beat Hamilton Girls’ High School in a top-of-the-table clash, which was a really big upset.”
Te Araroa and Paris (Paris made the basketball nationals tournament team) and several other QMC students are involved in a combination of or all three basketball netball and rugby 7s codes.
On top of that, Te Araroa also plays volleyball and a bit of touch rugby. “Except for netball, my sister also Naomi plays all the same sports and in the same teams as me, which is good.”
Te Araroa and Naomi are following in the footsteps of their four brothers. Lima is the oldest, followed by Tupou, Ezekiel and Toka. All four went to Wellington College.
“I think growing up, just being around them all the time they kind of influenced me to follow and like rugby and I just kind of fell in to playing it when I got the chance to.”
Coming up, Te Araroa has four NCEA exams, the last one just before QMC heads off to Condors. Following that she is undecided as to what she will be doing next year – but what is certain is sport will be a big part of it.
The Queen Margaret College basketball team that finished runner-up at the AA Nationals was:
Rosie Campbell, Samantha Jenkins, Paris Lokotui, Maia Mariner, Sarina Musa, Tia Pavihi, Naomi Sopoaga, Te Araroa Sopoaga, Lilly Taulelei, Rangi Tawera
The Queen Margaret College rugby 7s team that qualified for the Condor Nationals in December was (team subject to change for the Condors):
Bridget Horgan, Lilly Harris Williams, Ruby Treadwell, Riley Newell, Naomi Sopoaga, Kitana Tawera, Paris Lokotui, Maia Moe Jenkins, Ajah Pritchard Lolo, Jessie Rongen, Te Araroa Sopoaga, Melania Lui-Fa'I, Sarah Caddis, Natalia Bennett
Promising New Zealand school-boy player Jacob Kneepkens has signed with the All Blacks Sevens for two years.
The Francis Douglas High School 1st XV co-captain will move to Tauranga to join the sevens programme at the end of the school year.
In 2018 Kneepkens was a member of the New Zealand Schools squad, made the tournament team at the Condor Sevens and was MVP at the inaugural Red Bull Ignite7 tournament.
The accolades continued this year as he was named in the All Blacks Sevens Development team before returning to play in the New Zealand Schools team for a second campaign.
All Blacks Sevens Coach Clark Laidlaw said Kneepkens’ potential was clear to see.
“Jacob was part of our development programme earlier this year and we could see what a naturally talented athlete he is. And it’s not only on the field, he has a strong work ethic and is an impressive young man.
“It’s exciting to know he will be joining our environment for the next two seasons, we’re looking forward to fostering his development both on and off the field,” said Laidlaw.
Kneepkens follows in the footsteps of emerging stars including Rieko Ioane, Vilimoni Koroi and Etene Nanai-Seturo who started their professional rugby careers in the All Blacks Sevens programme.
He also follows in the footsteps of such players as the Barrett brothers and current Wellington Lions captain Duplessi Kirifi as Francis Douglas Memorial College players.
Two years ago Kneepkens caught the attention of rugby league scouts, signing an academy contract with the Parramatta Eels
The squad is preparing for the start of their 2019/2020 season which packs in 10 World Series tournaments before the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Before the first World Series event in Dubai this December the squad will compete at the annual Oceania Sevens in Fiji.
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