53-year-old female rugby player soldiering on
• By Michael Uugwanga
MOST female rugby players in their 30s are probably thinking about retiring from the game, but not Rachel van Wyk, who, at the age of 53, still plays for Rehoboth Women’s Rugby Club in the women’s rugby league.
Although her favoured position is forward, Van Wyk is an all-rounder player who, even at her age, continues to deliver on the field.
“I started playing rugby when I was 38 years old. Toby van Wyk taught me how to play rugby in 2008 at Panda before it was renamed Rehoboth Women Rugby Club, and I also played for the women’s national 7s team side. I was born in Rehoboth, and I consider myself fortunate to be able to play rugby. I’m known as everyone’s aunty Nance,” van Wyk explained.
Despite the dangers of rugby, especially at her age, Van Wyk has no plans to retire and says the support she receives from her family inspires her to push even harder.
She trains four times weekly and looks up to the late Attie du Plessis.
“I am not married but have children and grandchildren who have been supportive. Rugby is something I enjoy playing, and I believe I still have much to learn. I have no plans to retire anytime soon. My physique is still in good shape, and rugby keeps me going. Yes, I am still eligible to play for the senior national team. I’m the only senior player who is still fit, healthy, and strong. Rugby is a difficult sport that is both enjoyable and exciting.
“The key is not to be afraid and to fully commit to the game. Monday through Thursday nights, I exercise with the team and jog in the morning. I have soler tendencies. I have two children whom I babysit after school. I play rugby four times a week. My children are now grownups. When Toby van Wyk approached me, I initially rejected it because I was terrified. I knew nothing about rugby and thought it was risky, but he persisted. I eventually joined the crew, enjoyed every moment, and never looked back. Our squad has a lot of known players, but they are still very young, and we are focusing on helping the team first get the basics under control. The late Attie du Plessis is my rugby idol. He was skilful and very brave. He wasn’t big, but he played with heart,” she said.