Nine years after taking up rugby as a sport, Springbok Women’s star player Zenay Jordaan’s dream of becoming a professional rugby player has become a reality, and she is still in awe since signing her national contract in January.
The slightly built 22-year old, standing at only 1.56m tall, is one of 15 elite Springbok Women’s Sevens players who recently received contracts for the first time in South African rugby history.
Adding to this achievement, she was named SARU’s 2013 Women’s Achiever of the Year at the annual awards banquet at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg.
Despite her petite frame, Jordaan certainly has the skill and determination to establish herself as a star attraction on the international women’s rugby circuit.
The Middelburg-born flyhalf started playing rugby at the age of 14 in 2005 and made her way into the national Under-20 and Springbok Women’s teams three years later.
She may be one of the youngest players in the squad, but she already boasts an impressive rugby resume which includes playing in two IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens tournaments and a 15-a-side IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup, among other international competitions.
Off the field Jordaan is easy-going and always carries a smile. She enjoys listening to music, watching movies, spending time with family and friends, and playing golf and garden cricket.
Rugby aside, she is a former sprinter and long jump athlete, with her sporty roots stretching back to her parents. Her father is a former Eastern Province rugby player and her mother a former provincial table tennis player.
With this background it is no surprise that Jordaan’s parents are not only her biggest fans, but have also been the most influential people in her rugby career.
Her deep-rooted passion for rugby started in their presence as a young girl watching rugby on television at home, and playing the occasional game in the street with the boys in her neighbourhood.
“As a youngster I spent weekend’s watching rugby with my parents, and this sparked my love for the sport,” said Jordaan. “At first I joined the guys playing rugby in my street, but my first meaningful steps in rugby was when I joined the Middelburg Stormers in 2005. After my first training session I never looked back. “
Similarly to most female rugby players Jordaan says there were mixed reactions at home initially about her decision to play rugby, but in the last few years her parents have made every effort to attend her matches when possible.
“My dad was very supportive when I told him I had taken up rugby, but my mother was totally against it. As a result, I had to sneak out of the house to attend training sessions and matches, but it wasn’t long before my mother would arrive at the field looking for me,” she says with a chuckle. “Ironically a few seasons later my mother was the one insisting that my school should grant me permission to travel with SA Under-20 and national teams. My mother remains concerned about potential injuries, but my parents are very proud of me and this has certainly influenced my career.”
Being part of the Elite Springbok Women’s Sevens squad, Jordaan resides with her team-mates in a residential programme in Port Elizabeth supported by the Eastern Province’s Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture.
But given the player’s extensive travels across the Sevens and fifteens codes in the last few years, she has been forced to become independent.
“I am used to being away from home because we have been travelling since I was in the SA Under-20 structures, so it wasn’t a big adjustment to move to Port Elizabeth,” said the young player.
“There are days where one longs for your family, but playing rugby for a living has been my dream for many years, and I now have the opportunity to do so in a professional environment, which is a privilege.”
Given her passion for rugby, even the player’s role models are rugby stars, team-mate Lorinda Brown and Springbok Sevens stalwart Cecil Afrika, while her favourite team is the men’s Springbok Sevens side.
In the next three months Jordaan will participate in the Hong Kong Invitational Sevens tournament, an African Sevens tournament in Kenya and the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in Amsterdam.
She will then turn her attention to fighting for a place in the 26-member squad travelling to the 15-a-side IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup in France from August 1 to 17.
“My two main goals this year are to do my best on the Sevens circuit and to be selected for the Rugby World Cup squad,” said Jordaan.
“Every sports man and woman dreams of representing their country. It doesn’t matter how many times you have worn the green and gold jersey in the past, it remains an honour and a privilege to be selected for the national team.”