Rising UWC star off to a flying start

UWC humanities student Leandi Smith had a dream start to her international rugby career when she scored a hattrick, in her second match for the national under-20 side, when they beat Zimbabwe 43-0 in June. She was also named backline player of the week at SARUs Youth Training Centre Week, in Port Elizabeth, last week.

Leandi Smith, an exciting prospect for South African rugby, has her sights firmly set on donning the senior national women’s rugby jersey, in the near future. 

No one can really blame the UWC student and national under-20 winger for wanting to achieve this.

She had a flying start to her international career, scoring three tries in only her second international match, earlier this year.

Having only started playing rugby casually, in 2015, that was a dream start to international rugby for the third year Bachelor of Arts student. She made her international debut earlier this year when South Africa took on Zimbabwe in a two-match test series. She made an immediate impact, scoring a hattrick in her side’s 43-0 win in the second test.

That was, of course, not just any hattrick. It was a hattrick that announced Smith’s arrival on the international arena. Those three tries, which all came in the first half of the match, laid a foundation for her side’s victory.

The youngster was at it again, at the South African Rugby Union (SARU) Youth Training Centre Week, in Port Elizabeth, a fortnight ago. She was named backline player of the week.

Smith admitted that things haven’t been easy since she started playing rugby a few years ago, and the road ahead is going to be even tougher.

“It all started at Princeton High School in 2015. We started off playing touch rugby on Sundays.

“Then, we went on to play friendly matches on Wednesdays. Those were full-contact matches, which I enjoyed. I played both Sevens and 15-a-side rugby, so I’m comfortable with both formats,” she said.

“There were not many girls playing rugby at the time but those of us who could continued. Then I was selected into the WP under-16 side in 2015. I climbed up the ranks to under-18 and then the under-20s. I was called up to the national team, earlier this year,” she said.

Smith said one of her aims was to be an inspiration to other young women, especially those who still think sports like rugby is a no-go area for women. She said getting things right, education-wise, while continuing to chase her rugby dream, is a challenge she’s ready to face.

And, if what she’s achieved in the past three years or so is anything to go by, then she is on track.

“I’ve set myself a number of goals. I am now in my third year at university. So, the short-term goal is to get my degree and then study towards a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) next year.”