By Madison Beer
All-star rugby player Niku Kruger put KU on the map after qualifying to play for the United States team in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Kruger, 24, dreamed of playing professionally his entire life, and has now been given the opportunity to start his professional career in America.
Coming from Pretoria, South Africa, Kruger quickly made a name for himself at KU, becoming the best scrumhalf on the team. Kruger had been injured early on in his career and thought his dream was coming to an end. However, he came back stronger than ever and accomplished more than he ever thought he would.
Kruger was named four-time all-American during his KU career, putting him on the map for the USA coach. When Kruger went to Cambridge University in England in 2013, the head coach of the USA national team came to watch and was impressed with Kruger’s playing.
After living in the states for three years, Kruger qualified for the USA Rugby team, second side. After receiving training from several camps all of the country, Kruger was told he would be representing the USA at the Rugby World Cup in England.
“I never gave up, and today, I can call myself one of the best in America,” Kruger said.
Kruger is now well-known in America as well as South Africa considering he has played professionally for both countries. After graduating high school, Kruger was recruited to play for The Pumas. It was after that season ended that Kruger was invited to play rugby in New Zealand. However, two weeks before traveling, Kruger tore his ACL.
After Kruger’s injury, he decided to pursue a college career in America, which is when he chose to study biology and pre-med at KU. In addition to dedicating a majority of his time to rugby, Kruger was also a tour-guide and community assistant.
Kruger commented on Larry Chester, Kutztown’s strength and conditioning coach, saying “Larry Chester taught me that I was the constant variable,” he said. “He taught me that I was the master of my fate and I was the only one who could achieve my dreams.”
Kruger also praised KU’s rugby coach Dr. Gregg Jones. “He believed in me even when I didn’t,” said Kruger. “He showed me what it meant to be a man of true loyalty,” Kruger said. “Without those two men, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”
Some of Kruger’s sports achievements include All American Collegiate Rugby Player, Player of the Year (2013-2015), captain and president of KU’s team from 2014-2015, record holding points scorer at Kutztown, USA 15’s team, and many more.
Kruger has been an inspiration to his KU teammates. Evan Anderson said, “Niku has taught me what real dedication is and he made me become the best version of myself on the field.”
Ollie McCullough said Niku Kruger has “left an impact on many players at KU.”