Playing championship rugby a long way from home: Get to know BYU's Alex Vorster

A long way from where he was born and raised, Brigham Young University hooker Alex Vorster has overcome multiple life-changing events to get to where he's at now: playing a critical role in BYU's championship rugby team.

"There are a lot of differences living here," said Vorster of his transition from Durban, South Africa where he was born and raised to Provo, Utah. "It's not as humid and hot in Provo as it is in Durban. It's family-oriented here and the importance of religion is intense. I've been able to do well thanks to how accomadating people are here."

Vorster, a 20-year-old sophomore studying economics, is no stranger to change and credits the lessons he's learned from his parents as well as the friendly culture of the BYU community to helping him get to where he is today in life. He also acknowledges the support his sponsor family in Utah has given him by treating him as their own. 

While growing up in South Africa more than 10,000 miles away, Vorster experienced different life-changing events. Vorster's father remarried when Vorster was about five years of age in which he gained two half-brothers from his father's new marriage. When Vorster was 18-years-old, his mother passed away.

"Although my parents weren't together, they taught me to be humble," Vorster said of the teachings of his parents. "Whenever they saw me becoming a little boastful, my parents have always helped me know I stand. They always reminded me."

Learning to adjust to different situations and environments didn't stop when Vorster moved to BYU. Vorster, who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faced more learning curves from understanding BYU's unique culture to taking religion courses.

"The religious background was a challenge my freshman year," Vorster said of fitting in at BYU and understanding the culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which owns and operates BYU. "It was hard to understand the culture at first, but the people here have been super accepting and helpful."

A big part of learning how to fit into the BYU community came from being a part of the five-time national championship BYU rugby team. Vorster's reliable, crafty style of play helped him earn playing time and respect from his teammates as a true freshman.

"When I first came here, the team had a lot of seniors," Vorster said of former Cougars such as Kyle Sumsion, Kyle Lontine and Dan Hubert. "They made me feel welcome. They mentored me in rugby and school work."

Thanks to the mentoring of his teammates combined with guidance of BYU's coaching staff, Vorster quickly became an impact player rising to the challenge of BYU's 2015 season. The hooker credits his increased drive to be more competitive and increased discipline to the BYU coaching staff. As the 2015 season progressed and BYU continued to win, Vorster's appreciation for BYU and its rugby program grew.

"I started to realize what it meant to be a part of the BYU rugby team at the 50th celebration when I got to meet the past players who helped BYU get to where it's at now," Vorster said of the team's anniversary season last year. "Especially growing up in a foreign country, I had never of Brigham Young and Mormons. I learned to appreciate what the program stands for and what it means."

Whether it's making tackles or winning the ball in the scrums, Vorster will do what it takes to help the Cougars when their sixth national championship on Saturday, May 7, at South Field. Although he's 10,000 miles away from home, he knows that there's more to the BYU rugby program than just winning championships.