HERO LEADS VARSITY RUGBY TEAM
Louis van der Westhuizen, second from right, captains the first Varsity Cup game in 2019, when they beat the University of Johannesburg 23-8.
Louis in action while playing for the Leopards.
Nickname kicks off
When Louis landed at the Overs men’s residence on the campus in Potchefstroom, he was immediately nicknamed “Chucky”. He laughs and says: “I think it was because of my red hair that they called me ‘Chucky’. Like Chuck Norris.”
Louis van der Westhuizen, far right, was the youngest hooker at the 2015 Rugby World Cup tournament.
It is 2015 and Louis van der Westhuizen is facing the scariest challenge in world rugby.
Around him, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium in the east of London is filled with the sounds of the New Zealand haka. It is the Rugby World Cup and the first time that tiny Namibia is tackling the undisputed rulers of the oval ball – the mighty All Blacks.
Louis has just finished singing his national anthem, “Namibia, Land of the Brave”, his hand on his chest – the first time that a Namibian rugby team has sung this in England.
He is only 20 years old and the youngest hooker at the tournament. Kevin Mealamu, also wearing the number 16 jersey, but for New Zealand, boasts more than 100 tests, and the Kiwis have 1 061 tests among them. This will be an uphill battle if there ever was one.
It was – but what an unforgettable game. “That was a dream come true, but it was also extremely intimidating,” says the NWU’s Varsity Cup captain. “It was so overwhelming that I did not sleep a wink the previous night.”
On that day, 24 September 2015, Namibia may have lost the game 58-14, but it was an experience that Louis would not trade for anything in the world. And there were lessons to learn – lessons that he can share with his team mates today.
However, this nearly did not happen at all.
Steering the ship
“I would never have focused on rugby,” he confesses. “My only goal was to obtain my degree in engineering.”
Nevertheless, even without focusing on it, his rugby career took flight. Besides playing for Namibia, he also played for the Leopards. After becoming captain of the Varsity Cup team earlier this year, he now steers the NWU’s rugby ship.
“I have been part of the greater leaders’ group since last year, and I have seen how things are done. It is about more than just leading the team. It is about representing the university – wearing that emblem on your chest. There is a bigger picture than the Varsity Cup, and that is what we are playing for.”
Support on the home front
His father, Lourie, is his biggest supporter and his mother, Wilma, sits in front of the TV and prays that he does not get hurt. Brother Hennie also studied at the NWU. Louis’s girlfriend, Zanria van Schalkwyk also comes from Windhoek, and he would like to continue his rugby career abroad with her at his side.
However, Louis is more than just a rugby player – he also loves fishing. “I do not always catch anything, but standing next to a dam or on the beach is absolutely wonderful …” His voice trails off, reminiscent of the ebb and flow of the tide at Henties Bay – where the cod, steenbras, galjoen and snoek abound in the cold Atlantic waters. “My granny has a house there,” he says. “We go every December.”
But fishing will have to wait a while. Louis has other commitments. Between September and November, he will most likely be wearing the Namibian jersey at the World Cup in Japan. Before that, he has a university team to lead.