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Silver Ferns coach says her side can survive loss of star shooter

The 21-year-old is arguably the side's most important player and her World Cup ending injury has sent ripples through the tournament.

Nweke came off with what looked like a minor knee issue in the Silver Ferns' game against Singapore on Sunday.

It was only as a precaution that the shooter got scans.

But the results came through late on Sunday night (South African time) and revealed a partial tear in her patella tendon.

The majority of the team found out the next morning before their game against Wales.

Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio said they were devastated.

"Lots of emotions, there were lots of tears … but we've always been really big on, 'It's the full 15 of us.'

"We talked to it, how important it is for us to band together. Things happen in a team and it either pushes it apart or pulls us together, and I think we were always big on [the thought that] this was going to pull us together," Ekenasio said.

As for the side's title credentials, the Dame Noeline is bullish about where it leaves New Zealand's title hopes.

"I don't believe it is a blow. I feel if anything it's probably forced the issue to start to consolidate faster.

"What we've always known in the team is that we can't rely on one person, we've got to make sure that we have players that can play in multiple positions.

"I'm a bit of a spiritual person you know, so sometimes I think you know the pathway has been set; it's up to us as to which path we want to take," Dame Noeline said.

"And irrelevant of whether you win or lose, that we're proud about what we do. I think that's always been our mantra that we're out there as a 12 or a 15.

"Sometimes things like this galvanise teams so we're just putting our head down working and seeing what happens the next day."

The Silver Ferns only had a few hours to process the news before heading into their first game of the crossover stage against Wales.

But it was probably their most polished performance of the tournament.

And Grace Nweke's understudy put out a player of the match performance in their 83-34 win over Wales.

Maia Wilson put up 49 goals at 100 percent accuracy in her three quarters.

Wilson said she wasn't feeling extra pressure, as she suddenly found herself as the side's main goal shooter.

"I know I have the ability to do my job. We're very different but I know what I bring and my strengths and I feel like when I'm able to showcase that, I'm able to do my job.

"Now it's a switching of a mindset knowing that goal shoot is probably going to be where I'm going to be at, and knowing that as long as I'm doing my job, and offering and creating for and with my team-mates, I'm going to be a happy girl," Wilson said.

The Silver Ferns captain backed Wilson's ability to deliver.

"I fully trust and believe what Maia does out there on court; we've done it for years before this too so the combination is there."

Ekenasio said they didn't have time to dwell.

"We have to move so that's really big for us and we've got to do it together, that's the only way we're going to be able to do it.

"We haven't done the amount of work that we've done to let it slip here.

"The next day is another step before we can really start to roll so we have to start to consolidate and believe in us," Ekenasio said.

Playing Ekenasio at goal shoot to create more of a moving circle is an option, but Dame Noeline said it's more likely Wilson will stay there.

"Knowing Maia is [primarily] a goal shoot …I think now with Grace not there we need to consolidate, that's her place in goal shoot … I think the chemistry of what I saw was quite nice."

The Silver Ferns finally get a rest day before playing South Africa on Thursday morning, before a big clash with Jamaica, which Dame Noeline knows will be tough.

"This is what we live for and the business end and we're entering into that … We're here to play to win and our mantra hasn't changed.

"One thing that we learnt when we were here in January: it's not only South Africa, it's the people who are sitting in the stands.

"It's going to be vocal out there, I think their last game they may not have been happy with what they put out because I know that they are actually a better team … so it's all on."

She will be coming up against coaching royalty in Norma Plummer, who reached 100 international wins as a coach at the tournament.

Dame Noeline said it was a relief the policy was in place.

"We've been very fortunate that we were able to bring three reserves with us … Our three reserves have been part of the team so hopefully it was seamless when they do come in."

Travelling reserve Tiana Metuarau was called into the playing 12 for the remainder of the tournament and found out at 10pm on Sunday night.

Dame Noeline said the 22-year-old was very nervous but it didn't show when she came on with five minutes left in the third quarter.

"So credit to her, I think when I look at combinations she knows Maia from under 21s.

"Then when we look at the other combinations in the fourth quarter, she's got her buddies in the Pulse in and around her, so then they start to go."