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Bok lock Nolusindiso Booi looking forward to skippering SA for memorable World Cup run

Bok lock Nolusindiso Booi looking forward to skippering SA for memorable World Cup run
Women’s Springbok captain Nolusindiso Booi in action during the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup 2022 match against Zimbabwe at City Park in Cape Town on 15 June 2022. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

When Springbok women’s captain and lock Nolusindiso Booi leads South Africa on to the field for the opening match of the Rugby World Cup 2021 against France on Saturday, she’ll be representing young South Africans with a dream of reaching the heights she has, as well as the honouring the memory of her late father.

Much like many women’s sports globally, rugby has made great strides in recent years. The latest edition of the Rugby World Cup, taking place in New Zealand and delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, promises to be the most successful to date.

For South African captain Nolusindiso Booi (who is a veteran of two previous World Cup editions) the occasion and its significance are immeasurable.

“I think I appreciate this one more than the other two because I am now more mature as a person and am more aware of the road travelled for our team,” the towering Bok lock said.

“One has to understand the significance of this tournament and how it can elevate the women’s game on a global scale, but even more so, how it can promote the game back home in South Africa.”

Love at first try

The 37-year-old business management graduate, who grew up in rural eXesi in the Eastern Cape, never imagined she’d gravitate to the game of rugby. After all, where she grew up, cricket was and still is the most dominant sport.

However, after being invited to participate in an informal training session back in 2007, Booi fell in love with the brutal sport. The lock hasn’t looked back.  

“As a young girl I didn’t know what rugby was even though I played a number of other sports,” said Booi. “But after being invited to join a training session, I decided to take up rugby. It wasn’t long before representing the Springboks became a dream.”

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Once shy and reserved, the Western Province player never imagined she’d proceed to captain the national team on such a grand occasion. However, as she became more confident, her suppressed leadership skills also rose to the fore.   

“Rugby broke me out of my very shy way of life and helped me become a true version of myself,” said Booi. “My teammates, the management staff I have worked with and many other people I have encountered in my rugby career along the way helped me build confidence and become who I am today.”

Booi was part of the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, though not as captain. She might have also been involved in the 2017 edition had South Africa qualified.

As such, she brings a shipload of experience. Even though the Boks are in a tricky group alongside top-ranked England and highly rated France, with her leadership and resolve the team will look to make the world stand up and take notice.

Overcoming adversity

The lock’s career might have been even more fruitful and decorated had she not been plagued by fitness issues. Nonetheless, she always managed to bounce back.

bok booi world cup

Nolusindiso Booi trains during the Covid lockdown in Cape Town in July 2020. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

“I’ve broken a foot, had a fractured cheekbone and tore my Achilles tendon. However, thanks to a positive attitude and a dedicated approach to my recovery and rehabilitation, I managed to overcome it,” Booi said.

Those experiences, unfortunate as they were, will likely be further fuel for the 37-year-old when she dons that green and gold shirt, as will honouring the memory of her late father Mzuzu Quma, who the lock has constantly cited as one of her most significant influences, alongside her mother Sindiswa Booi.

Realising dreams

More than anything, as the leader of a team and movement that will hopefully see South African women’s rugby reach the heights scaled by their male counterparts, the Eastern Cape native says she and her troops are also playing to show young girls that dreams can come true.

“We have often said — and we honestly believe it — that we want to touch the lives of young girls back home, that we want to show them there is a future and a place for you if you play rugby. This is our opportunity indeed,” the 2018 Western Province women’s player of the year shared.

The Springbok women arrived in New Zealand as low-key participants, with only Japan and Fiji ranked below them. England and France will be confident of collecting maximum points against them as they battle for the top spot in Pool C.

The Bok skipper is confident that if they play to the best of their ability and tap into their strengths (such as physicality), they can cause some trouble for the duo. Of course, Fiji presents South Africa with the best chance of picking up a win.

More importantly, an emphatic victory for the Boks against the Fijians will present Booi and her teammates with an opportunity to qualify for the quarterfinals — as one of the two best third-placed teams from the three pools. DM


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