Maties Women’s Rugby duo represent South Africa at FISU Rugby 7s World University Championships

After wrapping up the 2024 FNB Varsity Cup season with a silver medal, Maties Rugby had a pair of its players named in South Africa’s selection for the FISU Rugby 7s World University Games taking place in France from 10-12 June 2024.

Sport Science Honours student Elme Kruger and 3rd year Sport Science student Ankia Viljoen have been selected to represent South Africa. Their selection highlights their rising status in women’s rugby, demonstrated by their performances in the recent FNB Varsity Cup tournament. Maties had been undefeated champions in the Women’s tournament until the 2024 final, where they lost out on gold by 6 points to the University of Fort Hare.

Anika grew up in a sporting family, her initial sporting code was netball which she excelled in at school, however when she got to Stellenbosch University, she decided to take a break from sport and focus on her studies. She continued to stay active, playing residence and club netball.

“I realized I need a new direction in my life… In my second year, I decided to play rugby and then things just took off from there.” Sport became a part of her identity when she was young and everything she does is sport orientated said Viljoen.

“I eat in a certain way, I live in a certain way to enhance my sporting performance, even my studies are sport oriented.” This positive attitude and drive is what got her noticed. She was one of the eighteen of the country’s most promising women’s players who assembled at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS) in June 2023 for a three-day sevens development camp, where the Springbok Women’s Sevens management got a close-up view of her skills and abilities.

Later that year she was selected to play at the International Invitational Dubai Sevens competition for the Springbok Women’s Sevens ‘A’ team. Since then, she has been given a SAS Rugby development contract with the Springboks Blitzbokke 7s team.

Unlike many young women who found rugby at university, Elme found it at an international school in Dubai, where her family relocated for 6 years after her father was offered a job opportunity.

South Africa is known for their world class rugby, and Kruger felt it was only right for her to play rugby since it was offered at the school she attended. “There was a U11 girls’ tag rugby team, and my thought process was, I’m South African I should play rugby!” she said laughingly.

She was in grade 11 when her family made their return back to South Africa, she continued training, and a national rugby coach noticed her talents and offered her the opportunity to be a part of the SA u/18 team who finished 3rd at the World Youth Touch Rugby Championships in Malaysia in 2018.

Although Elme might have the longest experience of being a high-performance rugby player and student when asked how she copes with this she said “Coffee, lots of coffee!” The Honours student was a standout player this season for Maties, scoring two consecutive hat-tricks and becoming the top scorer in the women’s tournament during the Varsity Cup season.

The Maroon Machine duo has stated that being part of the squad is a valuable experience as they continue to develop as athletes. They’ve both expressed gratitude to their families, Maties Sport, and Maties Rugby for their support. They are especially thankful to Johann Zeier, the Head Coach of Maties Women’s Rugby, for mentoring and assisting them with their advancement as athletes.

More information about the 2024 FISU World University Championship Rugby Sevens, including results, can be found here.


By Jamie Wyngaardt


Photo credits: USSA / Skhu Nkomphela