Sky’s the limit for promising player

Leigh Fortuin, right and coach Jeanette Bailey share a light moment during an impromptu training session

The minute Leigh Fortuin, 16, first
picked up a rugby ball, while still at
primary school, she was hooked. 

That’s hardly surpising as sport runs in her DNA.

Everyone in her household is passionate about sport.

The promising rugby player hopes to take her family name to even greater heights.

The lanky teenager doesn’t have to look any further for inspiration, her grandmother Ruth Marinus was a Western province netball player, her grandfather a former professional footballer and she’s related to Rugby World Cup winning springbok, Cheslyn Kolbe.

She calls the two, along with Jeanette Bailey, who introduced her to the game, as her biggest motivators.

She said that Bailey, the bursar at Harvester Primary School always pushed her to chase after her rugby ambitions. Certainly not an easy task, the youngster said, but she’s always for any challenge.

A Grade 9 pupil at Rocklands High, Leigh was undecided which sport to put her focus on as she moved between athletics, soccer, netball and cricket but a successful trial for Western Cape Sevens team that took part in the National Schools Summer Championships in Pretoria, in December last year, was enough to convince her that the rugby field is where she should be.

“I started at 11 years when my favourite coach, Ms B invited me to play. I’ve been with her throughout primary and high school,” she said.

“I met Leigh while she was at Harvester and introduced her to the game, Bailey said. She joined Princeton High’s under-16 girls squad because at Harvester we did not have a girls’ team,” Bailey said.

““She’s taken to the sport like she was born to play,” she said.

Although she now attends Rocklands High, she still plays for Princeton.

She quickly earned a reputation as a speedy winger and managed to make the WP team after playing in her first tournament.

At last year’s national schools’ summer championships, she helped her side to a gold medal and was praised for her team work and solo efforts.

WP team manager Claudine Arendse says as shy as she is once she gets going on the field of play, she is gold to watch.

“She is very strong for her age and with the right guidance and proper training she is definitely going far.

“She played very well during the schools championships both individually and as a team player, she gets very hot after taking a few hits,” said Arendse.

Not having a women’s team at her school was never going to stop her from playing, she said.

“Hopefully I can find a club and play club rugby. My dream is to be the Springbok and having my family supporting my dream encourages me to keep going.

“I work hard and always set myself goals and my ultimate goal is to don the green and gold,: she said

“My grandmother has always pushed me to involve myself in sport because it can take me far in life.

“Now what I have to do is continue working hard, always train even though it gets difficult but it’s something that I want and enjoy and to be an elite athlete one has to work really hard,” she added.

The soft spoken player says one of the significant things that made fall in love with rugby was the aggression the sport has. She says she found herself enjoying taking and giving hits more than any other contact sport.