July 13, 2024

Springbok Women Sevens player switch from netball to rugby pays off

A former Gauteng Jaguars player’s gamble to quit netball to focus on playing sevens rugby worked out in the end but what led to that decision?

CAPE TOWN – Springbok Women Sevens player Marlize de Bruin has shed some light on what led her to make a decision that saw her switch codes from netball to rugby.

The 28-year-old made her senior sevens rugby international debut for South Africa during the recent 2022 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in Chile.

She later went on to represent then Paul Delport’s charges at the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town and Cape Town Sevens respectively.

“I think nothing can be easy if you put the time, effort and hours in and mainly if it was your dream but switching the codes was a decision I made. It was not a guarantee that it would work out the way it did and it was a big risk, said de Bruin.

“The last few months of playing netball were bad for me and I really didn’t enjoy the sport at all anymore. The decision at the end of the day was easier because of how I felt at that moment about the sport. I took a big risk and it worked out as a new dream for me.”

The motive behind the decision

A product of Tuks sport, at the University of Pretoria, de Bruin was the vice-captain of Tuks Netball when UP-Tuks won their second Varsity Netball title in 2019.

And her netball career’s light and shine saw her being a key member and player of the Gauteng Jaguars won the Telkom Netball League (TNL) title five times successively from 2017 to 2022.

Her unexpected decision came a year before South Africa host the 2023 Netball World Cup in Cape Town.

“I always knew in my decision that the World Cup is just around the corner and that I might be part of the Proteas squad but at that stage when I had a chat with a coach close to my heart and someone that I know care more for me as a person than an athlete, I knew I’m making the right decision,” she said.

“Like I said the last few times that I was stepping out of court I always felt bad and I didn’t enjoy it at all. I knew that the TNL finals last year was my last game and I didn’t want to make a big thing of it.

“I just wanted to play and try and be the best I can for the Jaguars team for the last time. If your parents tell you we can see you don’t enjoy this anymore, you actually know there is something wrong. Being unhappy and frustrated in a system is not the end of the world but you can only try so many times and change so many times.”

Even though she had a stellar career in netball – playing successfully domestically, de Bruin has never been a part of the South African national side, the Proteas.

“I have nothing bad against netball and have nothing bad to say, I will always support my friends and the two coaches that helped me in my netball career,” she continues.

“Tuks netball and Jaguars were some of the best times of my life and made lifelong friends. Sports build character and I think playing for the Jaguars and winning five years in a row is one of the things in sport that help me in rugby and I strive for that consistency and winning mentally on the rugby field as well.”

Moving to rugby was unexpected for the star and on top of that she got the support she needed from her family and her teammates in Tuks.

She was first tested in rugby earlier last year when the Tuks Womens Sevens team played in France and Scotland.

“There was always something for me about rugby since I spent a lot of time next to the field with my dad and then watching my brother,” she said. “But mainly my attention was on the Sevens and I just think it takes a dedicated and hard-working person to play Sevens.

“It really tests you as an athlete and character. I like a challenge and like to push myself to my limits and higher limits so I just love the game of Sevens.”

Emotions and frustrations

Born and raised in Pretoria, de Bruin studied Education and did her honours in Education at the University of Pretoria.

Even though she did the switch, she is currently coaching netball while still playing rugby for a living.

De Bruin’s family is rich in rugby and her switch was welcomed by them, a family that is rugby-loving. Her brother Luan is a former Junior Springbok player and currently plied his trade in Edinburgh Rugby in the England Premiership.

“My family have always been there for me and supported my netball. They backed me in everything I do. The last two to three years I could feel their emotions every time I told them I’m not in the Proteas team and they shared it with me,” said de Bruin.

“They are very involved in my sport and life and they know the effort and work I put in. The question we all ask is how much more must I do as a player.

“So the moment I told them I’m going to play Sevens and that it is something that excites me, they said go for it and you will succeed.

“They came to watch me playing in the World Cup in Cape Town and that was a dream for me to have them at a World Cup game. Obviously, the plan for the past few years was to be part of the Netball World Cup squad but things changed so fast and God had other plans for me.”

Loving rugby

De Bruin says her determination came to light in 2021 when she went to Tuks training with some of her friends, something she enjoyed.

“I know it was fun, I enjoy the running and endurance part, I like the speed of the sport and I’m not scared of physically,” she said.

“I think as a netball player I have also been physically so the contact part didn’t bother me. I am really loving the Sevens, it creates a fire inside of me and I really want to grow as a Sevens player.

“Every player made me feel very welcome at the first rugby camp. My first camp was with a few Tuks players that I played with in France, so I had friends there, but easily made new ones since I’m a people person and talk a lot.”

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