Should Nadine Roos earn selection for the Springbok Women’s Sevens squad to compete at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 on home soil, it will be the latest step on a remarkable journey.
Abandoned at a pre-school creche by her mother as a young child, Roos was saved from life in the South African welfare system when her grandmother made the 160-mile trip from Polokwane to Pretoria in order to look after her.
“She was an old lady and raising a child again at that age, it's not very easy financially, and you know, she had to almost sacrifice her life,” Roos told World Rugby.
“If you imagine how older people would like to live, [it’s] easily, you know, not having a busy child needing to be places and stuff.
“That's the sacrifice she made for me, and it was her who taught me not everything you will ever get in life will come easy to you. You really have to work hard for the things you want.”
Roos embodied that lesson as she grew up under the loving care of her grandmother, finding solace in sport, whether that be athletics, netball or later, CrossFit.
“Sport was that escape. I developed so much passion for sport,” she added.
Making good on childhood promise
Her aptitude as a hurdler earned her a bursary at Pretoria University and it was while studying for her degree that Roos was introduced to rugby.
It would prove to be the oval ball that enabled her to make good on a promise she had made to herself when still a child.
“I told myself when I was very young, it doesn't matter in which sporting code it is, but I really do want to represent my country one day,” Roos said.
Roos would not have to wait long to wear the green and gold of South Africa and made her HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debut in Dubai in December 2016.
Only 19 months later, she would represent her country at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco helping the Springbok Women finish 14th.
Since then, Roos has become a test player too, and is also currently part of the 15s squad preparing for the delayed Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand, which is due to kick off in October.
Before then though, Roos will hope to be part of a home RWC Sevens, when Cape Town hosts the latest edition of the tournament between 9-11 September.
She says “you can’t put it in words” what it will feel like to walk out in front of a full stadium against France. However, Roos will be thinking about more than herself and her own performance should she stride out for the round of 16 match next Friday.
“One of my biggest motivators in life is to be a better person and also to be the inspiration for the younger generation and for children that also go through the same things that I went through,” she explained.
“When I go out onto the field, it's not only myself I'm representing. I'm representing [my gran], I'm representing the people that actually shaped me and helped me to be the person I am today.
“The people who had an influence over my life in all sporting codes, like athletics in school, netball, CrossFit, everyone that had that influence over me and pushed me to be the better person and be the better athlete. It's those people I also represent.
“And, you know, it's always an honour to represent those people because when you look back, it's them that made you.”
Making a statement
Roos’ gran will not be in Cape Town to witness RWC Sevens 2022 in person, however, she will be glued to a television screen back home in Pretoria.
And Roos and her team-mates are aiming to give her and their fans around the country something to cheer loudly for when they take to the field against France.
“Since the World Cup is straight knockout, you always want to have a win [to start] and we're definitely targeting that first game against France,” she said.
“Hopefully if we focus on our processes within the game, the end result will come. But we're not focusing on the end result, we will be focusing on our processes within the game and what we actually want to achieve out of this game.
“But what we basically want is to be in that top eight and make a statement.”
Should South Africa upset France and make the quarter-finals on home soil then Roos is confident it can have a huge knock-on impact for women’s rugby in the country.
“If we get more exposure, obviously younger girls in our country will also recognise that there is rugby for women in South Africa,” Roos said.
“Then hopefully by the means of how the system will be implemented, even in schools – rugby for girls in schools – I think the development there will be very important.
“And if that's implemented, I'm sure we will also see the growth and success of this Springbok Women’s Sevens team.”