Hurt toe fails to stand in Steinmetz’s way to Ferns

Grace surprised and delighted at selection

David Haxton





Grace Steinmetz didn’t think she’d gain selection for the Black Ferns because of an injury to her big toe. So she was surprised and delighted when coach Wayne Smith, nicknamed the Professor, called her and said she was in the squad. “That was pretty cool. “It’s my first time to be selected for an international series.” Steinmetz’s selection was top secret until the squad was revealed to the nation. “I only told my parents and my partner.” The toe injury meant the outside back was out of action for six weeks but she has now resumed running, although not at 100 per cent yet. The injury was sustained during a Super Rugby Aupiki game, with scans revealing torn ligaments in her left big toe. But two weeks out from the start of the Pacific Four Series, starting in June, she will be at full steam and up for selection. “I’m super grateful to even be looked at for this first series. I didn’t think I’d make the team because I’ve missed the last two Black Ferns camps which they’ve selected from.” Steinmetz has been in the Black Ferns environment before when she played for them against a Barbarians selection in 2020. “I have technically debuted for the Black Ferns but I don’t have an international cap.” Steinmetz, 24, made her name in the rugby sevens game for New Zealand as well as a stint in Japan for Yokohama TKM, but is now lighting up the field in the 15s where she plays for Matatu¯ in the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki contest. “Matatu¯ is a partnership with the Crusaders and Highlanders so it’s the whole of the South Island.” The fully contracted Black Ferns player is now immersed in the squad which is split into four hubs around the country. She’s in the Christchurch hub which features 10 contracted players as well as coaching and support staff. “We’re very well looked after.” Lots of people are taking a keen interest in Steinmetz’s rugby progression, especially those on the Ka¯piti Coast where she grew up. She attended Kenakena School, Paraparaumu Beach School, Paraparaumu College until Year 12, and then Wellington Girls’ College before heading south to study law at the University of Canterbury and play club rugby for Lincoln University. Her focus had always been hockey, athletics, and touch rugby until about four years ago when rugby took over totally. Sevens rugby was the first challenge, with Steinmetz admitting she was “absolutely shocking” at the start. “I don’t how I got selected but in the space of about six months I went from learning to tackle to being selected in the New Zealand sevens development team and the following year I was in a training contract with the Black Ferns Sevens.” She’s loving being a professional athlete but points out it involves a lot of hard work, especially the rigorous weekly training. Moreover, it’s a competitive environment with players fighting for a spot in the team. Steinmetz, who was admitted to the bar as a lawyer a few months ago, said the aim was to “play the best rugby I can” during the upcoming series and long-term be named in the Rugby World Cup team later in the year played on New Zealand soil.