Johannesburg – Laurian Johannes used badminton as a ruse to play rugby as she was worried her family would not approve of her love for the game.
Her family thought she had taken up badminton and the rugby boots her father bought were supposed to be for a friend.
Now the family are her biggest supporters 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 from August 1 to 17.
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 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,” Johannes said.
“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.”
Johannes started playing for the University of the Western Cape and told her parents she had taken up badminton.
“I even tricked my father into buying me rugby boots under the pretence that it was for a friend,” she said.
“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.”
In her debut season of 2003 she was selected for the Western Province women’s team.
She is two matches away from becoming the first women’s player at the union to earn 50 caps and could reach this milestone in May’s Saru Women’s interprovincial competition.
“I love rugby and I particularly love scrummaging,” she said.
“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.
“The camaraderie and good sportsmanship within the team environment is equally appealing to me.”
The 29-year-old also boasts provincial colours at under-19 cricket, while she represented the Western Cape Students team at softball.
Off the field Johannes coaches athletics at Settlers High School and is studying for her BA Degree in sport management.
Johannes will be 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.
Speaking about the World Cup in France, the prop was under no illusions about the challenge the team faced.
The Springbok Women will meet 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.” – Sapa