Former UJ rugby captain Rudy Paige is ready to don the green and gold and fill big shoes at scrumhalf when he travels to England with the Springbok squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup later this month.
“I am very excited about the opportunity that I have been given to represent my country at the world’s biggest rugby showpiece. I cannot wait to pull that Springbok jersey over my head,” said the 26-year-old.
“Coming through the ranks at UJ, then with the Lions and the Bulls, has prepared me for the challenges ahead.
“I have worked with some great coaches who have helped me develop my skills to the point where I can represent my country.”
UJ rugby club manager Jimmy Potgieter said the university was thrilled with Paige’s selection and that he had always stood out as an exceptional player and skipper.
“He came to us with a contract from the Lions rugby union and right from the start he established himself as a great leader, both on and off the field.
“He was always willing to put in the work and do more than what was expected of him,” said Potgieter.
According to Potgieter, what made Paige stand out was his exceptional kicking game from behind the ruck and his quick service to the backline.
Given the chance, he could play a pivotal role between the Springbok forwards and backline come game time.
Riversdale-born Paige played youth rugby for the SWD Eagles before coming to Johannesburg where he made the Golden Lions Craven Week team in 2007 and represented the SA School side that same year.
Over the next few years he went on to represent the Lions in the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup while also captaining the UJ Varsity Cup team, before moving to the Bulls in 2012 where he still wears the number nine jersey for their Super Rugby side.
But his greatest accolade is without doubt his selection for the Springbok squad earlier this year and, although he is still to be capped, he is ready to be thrown into the deep end.
He is one of three scrumhalves – alongside stalwart Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar – included in the 31-man squad.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer told supersport.com the similarities between Paige and Du Preez made him a better fit for the Springbok squad than Sharks rival Cobus Reinach.
Meyer said choosing between Reinach and Paige had been difficult but that Paige’s good kicking game and a recent dip in Reinach’s performance had helped him make his final decision.
“Rudy Paige played very well in Super Rugby, he was selected ahead of a guy like Francois Hougaard at the Bulls,” said Meyer.
“When Rudy joined the group, I told him to work on a few things and he has really good service from the base. It was a tough decision, and I feel for Cobus.”
On behalf of UJ Sport