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04 July 2019 | in Rugby

Emerging South African star says life would be boring without Rugby

For South African women’s sevens rugby player Kemisetso Baloyi, the beginning of her career in her current sport didn’t follow the traditional tale of pursuing a childhood dream, emulating a hero or following in a family member’s footsteps. It was merely meant to be a stopgap, a recreational activity out of the norm. But now, she’s addicted.

 

“I needed an extra-curricular activity, but there weren't a lot of sports on offer at my school, and I was never really interested in the only "girly" sport which was netball,” she tells FISU.net.

 

“So when I met a girl who told me she played rugby, I was immediately interested and went to training the following Monday. I was clueless about the sport, but I got a warm welcome and was taught whatever I needed to know, from passing the ball to making a tackle, as well as the basic rules.”

 

Little did Kemisetso know how far the decision to attend that practise would take her.

 

The wryly and talented Hooker made impressive strides in the game at school level, before continuing her rugby sevens career at university level after enrolling as a BA Law student at the University of Pretoria.

 

She continued to shine in university colours, and was selected to play in an international tournament in Spain before receiving her maiden national students team call-up last year for the FISU WUC Rugby 7s Championship in Swakopmund, Namibia.

 

“Playing at the FISU WUC Rugby 7s in Namibia taught me a lot, as it was my first time playing in the green and gold for my country,” she says. “I believe the experience has come in handy for preparations this year because the teams we will play against are high in quality and we will need to be clinical on the field.”

 

The South African ladies finished fourth overall in Namibia, and although admitting it will be difficult, Kemisetso is hopeful her team can go at least one better at this year’s Summer Universiade.

 

“There will not be any easy matches, but we are aiming to work hard enough to come back with a medal,” she states. “We have depth in our squad with a lot of experience because we have all played high level rugby at various international tournaments.

 

“It is an honour to represent my country on the world stage and to be part of something great.”

 

Apart from the honour of representing her country on the global stage, Kemisetso is hoping this experience will also be seen as an eye-opening opportunity for others which will assist in growing the women’s game not only in South Africa, but across the world.

 

“One of the biggest challenges we face as female rugby players is the lack of exposure of the sport,” she says. “Not only that, but more attention is given towards the men's competition: for example, we currently only have one 7s competition where all universities bring teams to contest for the title, which severely limits the growth of the game. There is also a misconception about how a rugby player looks and behaves, and most of us do not even fit that profile.”

 

Joining Kemisetso in the 12-strong South African student team for Napoli are seven of her University of Pretoria teammates, with the talented player proud of her university team’s representation in the national squad.

 

“I am proud of all of us,” she said. “It shows that all the hard work and dedication we've poured into bettering ourselves as players was not in vain. Each of us have something special to contribute towards the team.”

 
Kemisetso with her university national teammates at the 2018 FISU WUC Rugby Sevens. In Napoli, Kemisetso in the 12-strong South African student team with seven of her University of Pretoria teammates.

Despite her obvious talent in rugby, Kemisetso firmly understands the importance of education and the balance needed for a successful dual career as she sets her sights on goals far from the rugby posts.

 

“My life would be boring without rugby, but I would not feel like I have a purpose if it was not for my studies,” she says. “Balancing the two is important because I need to build a solid future for myself while I do something I love.

 

“I have my sight set being a part of the legal system. 

 

“Finishing my degree is first on my priority list and most of my energy will be focused on that so I can return for my second degree.”

 

For now though, there’ll be plenty of defending and attacking for Kemisetso to do on the rugby field, rather than the courts, ahead of the Rugby 7s competition in Napoli, which starts on Friday, 5 July.

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