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Give me Lomu rather than Lee, says Namibian doctor
Reuters, PTI
Kimberley, February 16, 2003
First Published: 12:09 IST(16/2/2003)
Last Updated: 12:09 IST(16/2/2003)

He'd rather try and stop giant All Black rugby winger Jonah Lomu than face Australia fast bowler Brett Lee, but Namibian doctor Rudi van Vuuren may get the chance to do both this year.

The 30-year-old, who has completed half of one of sport's most incredible achievements by representing his African country in the cricket World Cup, now has his sights set on rugby's showpiece event in Australia later this year.

He has played for his country in both sports, helping Namibia complete a rare double by qualifying for both World Cups in 2003, and is confident of earning a place in the rugby squad.

"I should make it, injuries are the only concern at this stage," he told Reuters. "If it happens it's going to be great and I'll pat myself on the shoulder then but it's not the end of things if it doesn't happen, it's not a train smash."

It's an achievement no sportsman has ever done before, with few even coming close. Former All Black Jeff Wilson played in two rugby World Cups, and while he also represented New Zealand in cricket he did not make the World Cup squad.

Van Vuuren was part of the Namibian rugby squad that went to the 1999 World Cup, but did not play a game.

Born in Namibia but raised in South Africa where he studied medicine at Stellenbosch University, Van Vuuren turned his back on a lucrative career as a professional sportsman to return to his birthland in 1997 and concentrate on medicine.

"I would never think of myself as a professional sportsman because I like it the way it is," he said.

"I'm very dedicated to my job, I have a big passion for medicine, I enjoy what I do so I wouldn't want to be a professional sportsman."

CRICKET DEBUT

The demands of playing two completely different sports at international level have inevitably overlapped over the years. He made his international cricket debut in Malaysia in 1997, then played his first rugby match for his country in Zimbabwe three weeks later.

"The guys from the cricket and the rugby both understand, they have a gentleman's agreement and they try to accommodate me, but it doesn't always work out and last year I had to miss the two (rugby World Cup) qualifiers," he said.

Van Vuuren opens the bowling for Namibia in cricket and bats at number 11. He plays flyhalf in rugby and thinks the games complement each other.

"Sometimes you can take that passion and aggression of rugby on to the cricket field," he said. "I don't think I'm that talented at cricket but sometimes that gives me the edge."

"And it's the same on the rugby field, I take the calmness and the focus and the calculation of cricket on to the rugby field.

"Both sports have some things that I take on to the field from the other sport."

Van Vuuren has been in training for the cricket World Cup for the past five months, keeping his weight down for his bowling, but plans to start bulking out when he switches back to rugby training in April.

Namibia have little hope of winning either tournament but will still have to compete against the best in both sports, a daunting prospect.

"I've always had a saying 'no regrets'," Van Vuuren said. "I never want to come off the field and look and the mirror and say if only I had done this or if only I had done that. I want to give everything I can at this World Cup.

"But, in saying that, and knowing my capabilities as a batsman, I'd rather take on Jonah Lomu one-on-one than Brett Lee."


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