“I’m playing badminton” was just a racket to get Laurian Johannes into rugby boots

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Her family thought she’d taken up badminton; the rugby boots her father bought were supposed to be for a friend; she was worried she wouldn’t be allowed to fulfil her love of scrumming. But the family of Laurian Johannes are her biggest supporters and four years after making her Test debut at the 2010 IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup in London, she has her sights set firmly on a second appearance in the international showpiece in France.

Johannes took up rugby in 2003 but her passion for the game was sparked during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which the Springboks won at Ellis Park. After the match there was no doubt in her mind that she would take up the sport.

“I watched the 1995 Rugby World Cup final at home with my parents and by the end of the match I told them that I wanted to play rugby,” said Johannes. “My brother played rugby at the time, and my father supported him avidly, but I knew being female it could be different if I were to play the sport.

“I joined UWC anyway and told my parents that I had taken up badminton. I even tricked my father into buying me rugby boots under the pretence that it was for a friend. I invited my father to one of the so-called badminton games soon after, and he was pleasantly surprised when he arrived and saw me playing rugby. He is now my biggest supporter and my mother and grandmother are equally proud.”

Her first and current club is UWC (the University of the Western Cape), where she quickly rose to prominence, but she joined Goodwood for a short stint before returning to UWC. In her debut season of 2003 she was selected for the Western Province women’s team, and barring injuries, she will become the first women’s player at the union to earn 50 caps when the SARU Women’s Interprovincial competition begins next month. She is currently on 48 caps.

“I love rugby and I particularly love scrummaging,” she says excitedly. “The serious look in an opposition player’s eyes when you are about to scrum and sometimes the look of fear really drives me, and it is an experience one only gets on a rugby field. But over and above that the camaraderie and good sportsmanship within the team environment is equally appealing to me.”

Despite focussing her attention on rugby in the last few years, the 29-year old has always been the sporty type, and boasts provincial colours at Under-19 cricket, while she also represented the Western Cape Students team at softball.

Off the field Johannes coaches athletics at Settlers High School, where she hosts training sessions from Monday to Thursday in season, while she completes her BA Degree in Sport Management. She completed her BA Degree in Sport and Exercise Science last year.

An exciting project in the pipeline for Johannes, and one that is particularly close to her heart, is to begin coaching women’s rugby at schools in the Western Province region in the next few months as part of a Western Province Rugby Union development project.

Her passion and dedication for rugby has certainly paid off with achievements such as representing the national team at the 2010 Rugby World Cup and the Nations Cup tournaments in 2013 and 2011, and winning the 2010 Western Province Women’s Player of the Year and UWC Sports Women of the Year awards. She was also nominated for the 2013 UWC Sports Women of the Year award.

In her spare time Johannes enjoys reading, extreme sports and playing Play Station games, while her favourite music is rock and R&B.

Her role models are Western Province and former UWC lock Tazz Fuzani and tennis star Serena Williams.

While Williams’ hard work and ability to achieve her goals has inspired Johannes in her rugby career, Fuzani’s graduation from Varsity Cup rugby to Western Province’s Vodacom Cup and Absa Currie Cup teams in 2013 proved that anything is possible if you put in the hard yards.

Speaking about the World Cup in France, the prop is under no illusions about the challenge the team faces.

The Springbok Women will face Women’s Six Nations champions and World Cup hosts, France, Wales and Australia in the pool stages.

“The 2010 World Cup was a big lesson for us all,” she said. “It was a rude awakening as to how far we have to go to compete against the top teams in the world. But this year we will definitely be better prepared thanks to the regular training sessions in our respective provinces and assistance from the SARU Mobi-Unit. Our conditioning has also improved, so hopefully we will be a strong force.”

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