Since Celeste Adonis was a little girl, her favourite pastime was going to the local rugby field with her uncle to play on the side-lines. She was raised by her grandparents in the small community of Groendal in Franschhoek.

Most of the men in her family played rugby and she loved the sport, but Celeste played netball, a sport “more suited for girls”. On the odd occasion, she was allowed to join the boys in her neighbourhood for a street game.

“I must admit, being tackled on dust and cement was not always that much fun, but rugby brought me so much joy.”

Kick-off time to play the game

As Celeste got older, the men in her family stopped playing rugby, and it seemed like the end of the family rugby history.

To her surprise, her high school started a girls rugby team, but they discontinued it after a couple of months. Although disappointed, Celeste was captivated by the idea to officially be part of a rugby team and to carry on the family legacy.

She found a club in Paarl with a ladies team and signed up. Shortly after joining the club, she was chosen to play for Boland where she was part of the team for three years before moving on to play for Maties in Stellenbosch.

From Club to Provincial and National team

After being chosen for the Western Province team, she trained really hard and lost 15 kilograms. She also moved position from number eight to lock. Her stellar performance led to her being selected to represent South Africa u/20 team on a tour to the United States, even though she was still a school girl. It was also the first time that Celeste set foot in an airplane. This experience sparked the dream of representing the senior women’s rugby team in a world cup after school.

Image credit: Dispatch Live.

Realising her dreams

When she was only 17 years old, Celeste received a very important call. She got invited to join the South African senior training camp, where after she travelled to France to represent South Africa in the 2014 World Cup.

“This was a dream come true. It was an honour to sing the national anthem and represent my country.”

With playing rugby comes a list of sacrifices. Celeste sustained a concussion right before her matric exam and consequently failed two subjects. As dedicated and hardworking as she is, she rewrote the two subjects and passed them.

Showing grit despite challenges

Image credit: People Magazine.

After the World Cup, Celeste toured England with the South African rugby team. She hurt her knee during one of the games, but she played through the pain for the rest of the tour. Returning home, she had to undergo a third rugby related operation and was out of action for eight months. She thought of hanging up her boots. However, she continued her rehabilitation hoping to play again. During her recovery she fell pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Two months after her Caesarian, she was training again and month later she was playing for her local club again.

The national coach heard that Celeste was playing again and came to watch. Three days later, she was invited to join the South African training camp again, and joined the squad that qualified for the 2021 World Cup this year.

“The dream of playing rugby for South Africa comes with many sacrifices. It has not been easy balancing a full-time job and being a single mother, while training and competing on a professional level. Unlike the national men’s rugby team, the ladies are not contracted and do not get the same financial support and surety that the get. But, it’s so worth it! “

Giving back and making a difference

Celeste is more than a rugby legend in her community though, she is a #RealHero too. Today, she is the Touch Rugby Coach for Hope Through Action at the Franschhoek Community Sports Centre, and she acts as a Life Orientation facilitator at her alma mater, Groendal Secondary.

She is a role model for both boys and girls in her community and embodies Hope through Action’s vision of changing lives: bringing hope and releasing potential through sport.