Ferns in the family

Faculty of Education and Social Work marae administrator Vikki Demant has two reasons to be proud when the Black Ferns play the USA and France this month - both her daughters are in the squad.

Black Ferns Ruahei (left) and Kiritapu (right) Demant

When the Black Ferns national women’s rugby team take to the field against the USA, it will be a proud moment for Vikki Demant from Te Puna Wānanga at the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

Two of Vikki’s daughters are in the Black Fern’s squad touring the USA and France – the first two Māori sisters to play for the Black Ferns.

Ruahei Demant, 23, is a student of the University of Auckland in her fifth year of a Law and Arts conjoint degree and is the captain of the Auckland women’s team, Auckland Storm. It’s Ruahei’s debut in the squad, having been plagued with injuries for the last few seasons. Her younger sister, Kiritapu, 22, has been in the squad since she was 18.

Ruahei says it was “surreal” finding out she’d made the team. “There was a time when I never thought it was possible that I would make this team and it was nothing but a dream. Now to be living this dream I’m extremely grateful.”

Their mother Vikki, the marae administrator on the Epsom Campus, says of course she is proud of her daughters, “but I also know it takes a lot of work and determination and sacrifices for anybody to be an elite athlete. Even when we have Christmas, they can’t eat like we do.”

For the tamariki in that small place, they become heroes for them. It can inspire little children in our community and give them the belief that they can do it too. That’s the real joy I have.  

Vikki Demant

Vikki Demant (centre) with her husband (left) and Black Fern daughters Ruahei (2nd from left) and Kiritapu (2nd from right)

For Vikki, the most important thing is the role her daughters can play in inspiring other young women. “They grew up in a small village in Omaio on the East Coast, an hour’s drive from Opotiki, and went to the local kura. For the tamariki in that small place, they become heroes for them. That’s the real joy I have. It can inspire little children in our community and give them the belief that they can do it too. When you live in small places you think it can only happen to people in big towns.”

Ruahei and Kiritapu grew up playing soccer with boys because there were no girls teams locally. They also played netball, basketball, hockey, touch rugby and league.

Vikki herself was sporty and played netball, but there weren’t as many opportunities back then. Instead she channelled her energy into kapa haka and led the elite Te Whānau-ā-Apanui kapa group performing at top levels in competitions.

Now as well as helping run the marae, Vikki leads the faculty’s kapa haka group and teaches kapa haka across Auckland schools.

Watch Ruahei Demant on Māori Television reflecting on women’s rugby.