Former Glenwood rugby star joins French Foreign Legion

2011-06-13 00:00

A FORMER South Coast rugby talent, who was injured a few years ago and had to pull out of the Sharks Rugby Academy, joined the French Foreign Legion last year in April and is an infantry soldier in Kourou, French Guiana, in South America.

Eben Jansen van Vuuren (24), who played first-team rugby for Glenwood in 2006 and 2007, was an up-and-coming South Coast rugby star before he made his move to the military.

Due to the nature of his work, he is not allowed to speak to the media, but The Witness interviewed his mother, Liz Dobbins, about his year abroad.

“Eben has really found a calling in the French Foreign Legion and feels he has more opportunities there,” said Dobbins.

“I’m really proud he made it through the first phase of the legion, as there is such a huge dropout rate,” she added.

About 45 recruits in every 300 make it through the first phase and then fly to France to begin the gruelling four-month training.

“He got on a plane and left. We weren’t allowed to hear from him during that entire process, which was really hard as a mother,” Dobbins added.

Those who get through the initial process hand over their passports and have the option of changing their names.

“Eben saw the opportunities within the legion as really promising, but did not need to change his name. As a young white man living in South Africa, he felt this calling would enhance his possibilities in life.”

Indeed, during his five-year contract with the legion, Van Vuuren will be able to study and train in any trade of his liking.

He will also have to learn French, the medium of all communication within the legion.

Dobbins said Facebook has helped her keep in touch with her son.

“We chat on Facebook all the time and he posts photos for his friends and family to see what he’s up to,” she said.

In his spare time Van Vuuren has been able to put his rugby talent to good use.

“He’s been teaching the locals to play rugby there. It must be really exciting for him to use this talent as he was so passionate about rugby,” Dobbins said.

Van Vuuren was a member of the Glenwood rugby team that beat Maritzburg College, in a feat achieved again this weekend, and his team won the KZN rugby league in 2006.

“He scored the try that helped Glenwood beat College for the first time in eight years.”

“I’m sure he’d want to send out a huge cheers to everyone at Glenwood for this weekend’s derby victory,” she added.

Van Vuuren was a given a rugby scholarship to John Fischer High School in London for a part of 2006.

He brought the school on tour to South Africa the following year, when he did post-matric at Glenwood.

He joined the Sharks Rugby Academy in 2008 and started studying marketing and accounts at Varsity College.

An injury ended his career with the Sharks and he pulled out of his studies.

“It was a challenging idea to join the legion, but it seems he’s thriving and loving every second of it,” said Dobbins.

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