Representing your country in a position that is unfamiliar to you on the big stage was not seen as an obstacle by Leandi Smith from Mitchell’s Plain.
She not only represented her country but also the University of the Western Cape at the 2018 International University Sports Federation (FISU) World University Rugby Sevens Championships in Namibia. South Africa finished fourth in the tournament.
She was one of three students from UWC that represented SA internationally, the other two being Verno Treu in the SA Men Student Team that won the tournament in Namibia and Babalwa Latsha who represented SA at the World International Sevens Tournament in San Francisco in America.
“I was unaware of what it meant to be part of the SA Student Team until the day of the University Sport South Africa ceremony. I am a wing but played scrum-half at the tournament in Namibia,” she says.
She realised that playing more than one position helps to develop new skills.
“At the tournament I met new people from different countries and playing scrum-half was tricky but it was educative. The SA team consisted of players from different universities and provinces and we did not know each other or each other’s abilities. We had a training camp but not all the girls came on time, making the training process difficult.
“We only had three days to train as a team and I must admit most of us were unfit. In Sevens fitness is key and I realised that this aspect of my game is the one where I must improve on the most,” Smith says.
Her main focus now is to improve on her fitness to be in shape in case another opportunity arises.
“Women’s rugby does not get the same exposure as the men and at university level the same sentiments are shared. For the students at UWC our main goal is to be acknowledged as women rugby players and allow the game to grow locally as well as internationally,” she says.
This sentiment to focus the same energy, time and commitment by provinces, countries and tournament organisers is shared by the New Zealand and World Rugby Player of the Year Portia Woodman. She also appealed to the powers that be that women should be included in all 10 HSBC Sevens tournaments that kick off on Friday 30 November and Saturday 1 December in Dubai.
“I am studying for my BA degree and that is now my first priority to complete my studies. I also want to travel the world. UWC promotes sport and all that is lacking is the little or no exposure that women’s rugby receives. Exposure on television or in the media opens up opportunities to be seen by national and international clubs and currently the Varsity Cup and Varsity Shield are giving rugby players that exposure,” she says.
When she is not busy at UWC she works at a restaurant, looks after her grandmother or hangs out with friends.
She also loves athletics and at school she was a sprinter in the 100m and 200m and made the Zonal and Champ of Champs teams.
“The best advice I got from my grandfather, who recently passed on, was ‘giving up is for the weak’ and I am still carrying that with me today. My future plans are to get my master’s degree in industrial psychology and move out of the country and make a better living,” Smith says.