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Being a BUCS Super Rugby Player at Leeds Beckett

Hi I’m Ryan, I’m a Master’s student here at Leeds Beckett University and a member of the Leeds Beckett BUCS Super Rugby team.

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A little bit about me and my journey!

I am currently in my fourth year with Leeds Beckett, having studied my undergraduate in Human Geography, and most recently I helped the university’s rugby union team reach the BUCS Super Rugby final at Twickenham, which was an amazing experience. My journey to Leeds Beckett was a bit unique, as is many of the journeys of the rugby players here at Leeds Beckett.

From Northampton Saints to a broken back

Up until I was 19 years old, I was playing for Premiership Rugby team Northampton Saints in their academy but a serious injury saw me released by the club. While playing for the under 19’s academy side, I fractured my lower lumbus spine in a game against Sale Sharks.

Unfortunately for me, a prop forward in rugby union with a bad back isn’t much use to a team, so when it came to the club handing out contract extensions they basically said to me 'As much as we may like you Prawn (which is my nickname) you’re a prop with a broken back so we can’t offer you anything'.

Why did I choose Leeds Beckett?

Despite the injury setback, I didn’t give up on my dream of being a professional rugby player.

After I left Northampton I knew I still wanted to pursue professional rugby, but I also wanted to get a degree. After a chat with my parents, they said go and study a degree, which I was all for. I knew that I wanted to study somewhere that I could still pursue my passion for rugby, somewhere where they would put time into developing me.

My agent and I had a few chats and I asked him where I should go. He put me in contact with the Leeds Beckett Director of Rugby, Colin Stephens, and Rugby Programme Manager Kerry Wood. Both Colin and Kerry were keen to have me join the team at Leeds Beckett, so I came down, met them and immediately knew that Leeds Beckett was where I wanted to be.

What sold Leeds Beckett to me was the incredible rugby programme they had, and how they are dedicated to player development. When I joined the university, the rugby squad was a very big and strong team. That’s what I wanted to be a part of, an environment where I could hone my craft.

I came here with the mindset that, while it might 'only be university rugby', I am going to take it really seriously, and focus on making sure I get myself as fit as possible and play as well as I can. What shocked me the most when I got here was the high calibre of players and athletes at the club, it definitely isn't 'just university rugby'.

Since joining, I haven’t looked back once, and neither have the team. I love it here, not just the rugby but I’m also incredibly passionate about my course – Human Geography.

Human Geography, Rugby and my goals for the future

I did my undergraduate course here for three years, in Human Geography, and got offered a place on a Masters course.

I decided I wanted to study part-time so that I could do the course justice, as there’s quite a lot of work involved. Paying Super Rugby takes up a lot of my time so I wanted to be able to focus on both.

I am just about to finish the first year of my Masters. It's in Human Geography and Geopolitics, with a focus on urban regeneration and development. I’ve always loved geography, and I knew if I was going to go to university, I always wanted to study geography and sustainability. Coming from a country like South Africa, I find this subject fascinating - I would love to be able to work in that area some day once the rugby is all said and done.

My goal for when I leave Leeds Beckett is to play professional rugby, which hopefully I will have an opportunity to do so, but we will see what the future holds.

At the moment, though, I’m focused on Leeds Beckett and getting us back to the BUCS Super Rugby final.

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