Kruger honours memory of Springbok World Cup-winning father at Wimbledon

Isabella Kruger, who has made the quarterfinals of the girls event at the All England Club, was only five when Ruben Kruger died from a brain tumour at the age of 39.

South Africa's Isabella Kruger serves against Britain's Mingge Xu during their girls' singles tennis match on the tenth day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on 6 July 2022. Picture: Adrian DENNIS/AFP

LONDON - South Africa's Isabella Kruger only needs to think of the photograph of her Rugby World Cup-winning father, standing proudly next to Nelson Mandela, to inspire her title dreams at Wimbledon.

The 17-year-old, who has made the quarterfinals of the girls event at the All England Club, was only five when Ruben Kruger died from a brain tumour at the age of 39.

Kruger was part of South Africa's 1995 World Cup-winning team.

An uncompromising flanker, Kruger was nicknamed "Silent Assassin" by coach Kitch Christie and scored a try in the semi-final win over France.

Considered unfortunate to have had a try ruled out in the final win over New Zealand, he ended his career with 39 caps.

"I was really small when he died but I have some memories of him and that's really nice," Kruger told AFP.

Her mother Lize helps her daughter keep the memories alive.

"She tells me a lot of stories and they inspire me a lot, how hard he worked," added the teenager.

"If I want to be successful I will have to do the same and stay determined, just like him. My dad is a great example for me."

Kruger said that a photograph of her father standing next to Nelson Mandela after the 1995 World Cup final in Johannesburg takes pride of place in the family home in Pretoria.

"It's a really nice picture and it's really cool," said Kruger whose older sister Zoe also plays on the circuit.

"We have a picture of Mandela with the team as well but the one of just the two of them is very special."

Kruger also sees three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Amanda Coetzer as a role model.

Fellow South African Coetzer reached a career-high of three in the world during her prime in the mid-90s.

"When I was younger, we played in a school tournament named after her. We went to see where she grew up, heard her story. She inspires us," she said.

Kruger, who combines her first tentative steps on the professional tour with completing her high school studies, made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon from qualifying.

However, she wants to keep progressing through the tournament in honour of her father who passed away in 2010.

"My dad would be proud but he'd tell me to keep working and also enjoy it," she said. "Keep working hard, keep going."

She added: "We came to Wimbledon when I was younger and watched all the big players. I always wanted to play here and to be able to do so on the biggest courts is just incredible."