Riaan Genis: This is his time

It was as unexpected as a lightning bolt on a sunny day. The North-West University (NWU) Eagles were playing against Wits in a warm-up game a few months ago.

Talismanic captain Ruan “Sampie” Swiegers was leading the charge. The tighthead prop had cemented his position as the Eagles’ de facto leader, having captained the Eagles during the 2022 Varsity Cup. Then, tragedy struck. He busted his knee.

With the 2023 Varsity Cup looming and time not a commodity to be wasted – the Eagles played their first game on 20 February – a leader was needed.

The Namaqualand is arid, sparse and, well, beautiful. At its centre is the town of Springbok. Nestled in a valley surrounded by rocky domes, it is as close to nothing as an empty promise. On 21 December 1999, Riaan Genis was born here.

This tenacious, wily scrumhalf was appointed Swiegers’s successor as captain of the Eagles’ Varsity Cup team, and boy, does this terrier have some fight in him.

His exploits on the field are the stuff of dreams for his teammates and of nightmares for his opponents. The number 9 jersey’s incumbent is – as all scrum halves are – a pest at the best of times and a nuisance when one is being diplomatic. This, of course, is from the opposition’s point of view. The more he disrupts, the more his brethren rejoice. This is a man to follow.

“It is a big honour and a privilege to have been appointed captain. It was so sad to lose Sampie and I heard the news of my appointment at the last minute, but I am so excited about the challenges that await. It is a huge responsibility, but I am ready for it, although I never expected it. I had to work my way up through the ranks and this is my last year at the NWU, and I want to make it count. We last won the Varsity Cup in 2016. It is time we do it again,” says the matriculant of Paarl Boys’ High in his distinctive Cape accent.

“We have the right team. We have enough senior players. We have the depth. The key to success in the Varsity Cup is not the 23 players on match day, it is the squad. It is about the 36 players and it is my job to keep all of them motivated. Everyone is indispensable to our cause.”

In 2022, Genis completed his BCom degree in Economics and he is currently enrolled at the NWU Business School.

“I have been preoccupied with my studies for the past three years. I decided I needed a degree behind my name – sport is not everything.”

When not behind the books or practising his box kicks, he enjoys going to the driving range or hanging out with his friends: “Sometimes you need to get away from the game,” he reflects.

Then there is also a certain lady by the name of Elsje Stofberg without whom Riaan’s story would not be complete.

“We have been together for two years now. She is my pillar of support, with all my rugby duties as well as completing my degree.” He hesitates, then confides in a burst of appreciation: “I would not have been able to accomplish anything without her.”

With Elsje hailing from Paarl Gymnasium, there was a mutual animosity between the two during inter-school events, but otherwise an enduring friendship blossomed into something so much more.

“For five years at school we were only about a kilometre away from each other. Then, during Covid, we started chatting … then we went on a few dates.”

Elsje is currently a teacher in Somerset West. That is 1 300 km from where Riaan is stationed in Potchefstroom. It is a distance he will soon traverse, but before that, destiny awaits.


Riaan Genis

Submitted on Fri, 02/24/2023 - 14:47