Zenay Jordaan has been surrounded by rugby for as long as she can remember.
Born into a sporting household on South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Jordaan’s father Wilfred would wake her up early in the morning to watch matches on television.
Once the match was over, she would head out to join the local boys playing pick-up games in the street. It was a vital learning experience for the future test player.
“To them everything is… natural, they're more competitive,” Jordaan told World Rugby.
“So, it made me be competitive as well. And, watching the skill level and players doing certain things on the field also made me very eager to go out and try it against the boys.
“But, also at the same time learn certain things from the boys as well.”
It was in these street matches, as she learned to side-step and worked on her passing range, that Jordaan first realised that she might be quite a good rugby player.
Having played for her primary school’s boys’ team, she was delighted to discover that there was a local women’s team, which had supplied two players to the South Africa set-up.
Jordaan signed up, and has not looked back. In 2009, she made her international debut in both sevens and 15s, and five years later she was part of the first group of South African women to be awarded professional contracts.
Jordaan was in the process of training to become a firefighter when the contract offer came, but following a chat with her parents she made the decision to focus fully on rugby.
“What made it a little bit tricky was the fact that you don't play rugby for the rest of your life,” she explained.
“We knew from the start what we wanted and that was building a foundation, but also one day being professional rugby players and having contracts at the end of the day.
“So, when that came on the table, I had basically no doubt to take up what I love and keep on growing in the game.”
It has proved a wise decision. Jordaan is currently preparing to represent South Africa at a sixth global tournament, having appeared at two Rugby World Cups and three Rugby World Cup Sevens.
The fly-half would be proud to pull on the famous green and gold jersey at New Zealand 2021. However, she would also be content were she to miss out, having played in all three qualifying matches that confirmed South Africa’s return to the tournament.
This is Zenay Jordaan. She is the boss.— Springbok Women (@WomenBoks) August 23, 2019
Do you want to play alongside her?
Then come and try out for our #BecomingImbokodo trial at Loftus B tomorrow. @CastleFreeSA @zenay_jordaan @pauldelport9 pic.twitter.com/kS2Vtl5wCZ
“I actually did some reflection about what I've achieved so far,” Jordaan said. “If I make it to the sixth World Cup, it would really mean a lot.
“But, I also said if it doesn't happen that way, then I know that I've already played my part, and that part was when we qualified for the World Cup.
“So either way, if I make it or if I don't make it, I'll be proud of that.”
New Zealand 2021
That said, the opportunity to play in the first women’s edition of Rugby World Cup to be hosted in the southern hemisphere is something that appeals greatly to the 29-year-old.
“I’m very, very, very excited,” she said. “New Zealand is probably one of the countries that I've always wanted to go and play in.
“It’s such a huge rugby country as well, and there's always lots of excitement and stuff. So, I've seen a lot of countries before, but I would also love to experience the atmosphere and the culture on that side of the world.”
And, that anticipation has not been tempered by the RWC 2021 Draw, which pitted the Springbok Women against England, France and Fiji in Pool C.
“There was excitement amongst the players, we know that we're probably in one of the toughest pools,” Jordaan said.
“So, it's basically just now going back and looking at what we can do to be very competitive at the World Cup against those teams.”
If the squad needs inspiration ahead of those matches, then the players only have to look at RWC Sevens 2009, in which South Africa beat Italy, Uganda and Spain en route to the semi-finals.
The tournament in Dubai was also Jordaan’s first Rugby World Cup. “That will always be my highlight of my rugby career and in the green and gold jersey,” she said.
Fast forward 11 years and while Jordaan prepares for a potential sixth Rugby World Cup appearance, she is also planning for life after her playing career.
The 29-year-old would be open to remaining in the game, but is currently exploring opportunities in finance and is enrolled on a trading course through the MDS Forex Institute.
“I don't really want to sit in an office or basically work a nine to five job,” she said. “I want to be my own boss, basically.”