Springbok star Nadine Roos owes it all to her ‘Ouma Sarie’

Springbok star Nadine Roos owes it all to her ‘Ouma Sarie’
Nadine Roos of South Africa in action during day 2 of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 at DHL Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)

The Springbok Women’s fullback was rescued and raised by her beloved grandmother, who she says can claim the bragging rights. 

When the Springbok Women’s team made their last appearance in a Rugby World Cup, in England in 2014, current star fullback Nadine Roos didn’t even know women’s rugby existed in South Africa.

Eight years later, she’s about to represent the country in her second Rugby World Cup in the space of a month.

Roos was a member of the Springbok Women’s team at the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens at the start of September. She is now in New Zealand preparing to take on the world’s best in the 15s version of the event, starting on 8 October.

“It’s special. It’s my first 15s World Cup so it will be quite an experience for me. I’m glad the opportunity came my way. I’ve worked hard for this 15s World Cup.

“There were also times where I doubted whether I wanted to play 15s because I come from Sevens,” Roos told DM168. “It’s a special moment receiving my first cap for a 15s World Cup.”

Nadine Roos of South Africa during day 2 of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 Challenge Quarter Finals match 11 between South Africa and Japan at DHL Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

A Roos among thorns

Life was not always filled with World Cups and tries, as it is now, for the 26-year-old who was saved from the welfare system by her grandma as a baby.

“Basically, I grew up with my grandmother. My mother made decisions in my life where I ended up in an [orphanage].”

Roos’s aunt took care of her when her mother no longer could. Her aunt then decided to put her in an orphanage but “Ouma Sarie” said “over my dead body”, according to Roos.

Her grandmother, Sarie Roos, drove from Polokwane to Pretoria to collect her granddaughter from the welfare system.

“My grandmother just said ‘over my dead body’ will she give her own blood away. She took me into her home,” Roos said.

“There was a time in my life that I did stay with my mother and my stepdad near Hermanus, in Kleinmond. That wasn’t a very joyful period in my life because I didn’t do a lot of sports when I stayed with them. That privilege was taken away from me.

“There were times when I would phone my gran and tell her ‘I’m not happy here, I want to come home’. Then the opportunity came again to live with her and I lived with her throughout my high school years and then also varsity.”

Roos still has a strained relationship with both her parents.

“At this point I don’t have a relationship with my mother or with my biological father,” she said. “I actually had an incident with him last year. I only saw him twice and he asked me to lend him money and I lent it to him. I’m still paying off the debts of that money,” she said.

“At the moment it’s just me and my grandmother. She raised me well. She always supported me with my sports, whatever sports I played,” she said.

Nadine Roos of South Africa in action during day 2 of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 at DHL Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)

‘Rugby found me, I didn’t find rugby’

Roos picked up rugby haphazardly. The multisport athlete was given a sports scholarship for athletics to attend the University of Pretoria (Tuks), where she graduated with a BComm degree in financial accounting and a postgraduate degree in teaching.

Roos admits she didn’t know that women’s rugby existed until she reached university.

The 400m and 400m hurdles athlete didn’t achieve the on-track success she had hoped to reach in her first year and changed course. “Coach Riaan van der Merwe from the Tuks ladies’ Sevens team approached me and I joined a training session one evening,” said Roos.

“I even phoned my gran after that one session and told her I might stick to rugby, see how it goes. Her words back to me were: ‘Aren’t you going to get injured?’ I told her an injury can happen anywhere so I’m going to see where it goes.”

One month after her first training session, in 2015, she found herself in France representing Tuks at an international Sevens competition.

“Then at the end of that year at the interprovincial Sevens, coach Renfred Dazel saw me and that’s how my career started with the Springbok Women’s Sevens team.”

“Basically, rugby found me and I didn’t find rugby because I never knew there was women’s rugby in South Africa,” she said.

Breaking women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens records

In the Springbok Women’s Sevens’ last match at the Rugby World Cup, held in Cape Town at the start of September, Roos ran in an incredible four tries in the side’s 27-0 thumping of Colombia.

It was the most tries scored by a South African woman in a Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament.

“She’s absolutely world-class. We’ve got one or two players that could be playing for the top four teams in the world, and she’s definitely one of those players,” head coach of the side Paul Delport said at the time.

Such achievements have become part and parcel of the nimble Roos, but Ouma Sarie still takes every opportunity to gloat about her granddaughter.

“I used to hate it when I was younger. Any achievement I had, a trophy or medal… She was a hairdresser back then and she would take the stuff to the hair salon and brag to all her clients, ‘This is what [Nadine] has won’ – in whatever sport it was,” said Roos.

“She still does it now. When I come home from a tournament and I bring back a trophy, an MVP [most valuable player] or something, I take it home to show it to her and share it with her. Somehow people will hear about it – she will phone people, people will phone her and she will tell them.

“She’s really proud and she shares my dreams and my passions with me. That was a thing when I was little. I hated it.

“I don’t like attention, I’m a bit of a shy, introverted person. I don’t like it, but I know where it came from. Those are the days I will remember,” she said.

Roos’s grandma is getting on in age, but she never misses any of her matches from her home in Polokwane.

“Even now, if there’s a game on TV, she will plant her chair in front of the TV –because she can’t see far anymore – and just watch how I play. She will never miss a game.

“My gran really raised me well, I believe. She’s a strong woman for what she did. I owe my life to her.

“Everything I do today is for her: Ouma Sarie Roos.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.



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