Cheetah’s Rudy Paige introduces baby Rose
Rugby star Rudy Paige and his wife Ronelle introduce their adorable baby girl
THE contrast between them is striking as they snuggle up on the sofa together – he all biceps and brawn, she all delicate limbs and soft, downy hair. But it’s clear from the moment you lay eyes on them that this bundle of vulnerability and helplessness has her dad wound around her tiny finger. Rudy Paige (29) may be a first-class rugby player and no stranger to fending off some of the biggest guys in the game but at home he is, in the words of his wife, Ronelle (31), “a complete softie”.
“If she cries, he jumps. It’s cute to see how he’s stepped into the role.”
Baby Rose is just three weeks old when we visit the family at their beautiful Bloemfontein home.
She’s already ruling the roost – and Rudy is loving every minute of it. “The best part is now when I come home I don’t think about rugby anymore,” the Cheetahs scrum-half says. “Having that balance is good for my career.”
Finding out they were expecting little Rose was a welcome surprise, the couple say. “We weren’t planning on having a baby so soon,” Ronelle says, gazing down at her daughter. “She’s our honeymoon baby.”
The couple were married on 13 January this year (YOU, 25 January) and found out they were expecting during the first weekend in February.
The little girl isn’t the first child for either Rudy or Ronelle – he has a daughter, Chloe (6), and she has a son, Jaiden (9), from previous relationships.
But this is the first time Rudy is a hands-on parent. “Chloe grew up with her mom in Oudtshoorn, so basically this is the first time I’m changing nappies and have vomit on my clothing.
“Obviously it’s a shock to the system but it’s lekker. I enjoy it.”
Ronelle smiles. The first night Rose came home Rudy didn’t sleep a wink, she tells us.
“Daddy was lying awake and watching you all night,” Rudy tells Rose as he lifts her out of her cot for another cuddle.
“I woke up at 1am and asked him, ‘Why are you still up?’ And he said he was just watching her. I told him, ‘ You don’t have to watch her sleep!’”
RUDY and Ronelle have a natural, easy-going relationship. He didn’t officially ask her to be his girlfriend and he didn’t ask her parents for their blessing when he decided he wanted to marry her.
He just spontaneously went down on bended knee in the kitchen while they were making coffee. It suits them to be casual, he says.
“Ag, it’s just fun man. Relationships are meant to be fun,” he says. “If you don’t like each other, you break up. If you enjoy each other’s company, you stay together and that’s it. It’s not that deep.”
Now, a year and a half after proposing, Rudy sits on the couch with another cup of coffee and a brand-new person in his arms. He was meant to go on tour with the Cheetahs in Wales and Scotland but was granted time off to be with Ronelle during her C-section delivery and is now helping with the baby as much as he can.
“What I worry about most is whether her neck is supported. I don’t want anything to happen to her. Overcoming fears like this has probably been my biggest challenge,” he says.
The Paiges have been living in Bloemfontein for a few months because Rudy is contracted there for the Cheetahs until next June.
In January, Ronelle’s maternity leave will be over and she’ll return to work as a logistics and local accounts manager.
The couple agree that the hardest part of having a new baby is not having a support system nearby. Rudy’s parents are in Oudtshoorn and Ronelle’s parents live in Johannesburg.
“We don’t know anybody in Bloem. We just have each other,” Ronelle says. “It’s tough, you know, when you’re used to being able to ask somebody if they can do something for you. Here, I have to wait for Rudy if I need something, and vice versa.” They visit Joburg whenever they can to see her parents and Ronelle’s son, Jaiden, who’s living with his grandparents while his mom is in Bloemfontein. Just a few weeks ago the whole family got together in the Paiges’ Bloem home to meet the newest addition. Rose’s big brother and sister are besotted with their youngest sibling, Ronelle says. “They’re very excited. I think Jaiden is a bit annoyed with us because for two weeks he was the one running around getting things for the baby. He’s big enough to get the nappies and wipes The little girl clearly has her burly dad wrapped around her little finger. and everything,” she adds.
“Chloe was here for the birth. She was asking when we’re going to visit again because she wants to see her little sister. She phones almost every day just to see how Rose is doing.”
BESIDES caring for a new baby, Rudy also has his rugby career to keep him busy. His Springbok jerseys and caps hang in pride of place on the lounge wall and, although he didn’t make the 2018 Bok squad, he’s proud of the team.
“The Boks are playing so well. I’m one of their biggest supporters,” he says.
“For now I just want to contribute and make the Cheetahs a better franchise. That’s my focus. Hopefully doing this dad thing will improve my rugby.”
If Rudy has his way, his family will grow before long. “I think I’d like to have another baby, go for a boy,” he says.
But Ronelle is having none of it. “Not in the next two years or so,” she says firmly.
Rudy sighs and turns back to his baby daughter. Ronelle smiles again. One thing’s for sure, she says – any boys knocking on the door wanting to date Rudy’s girls one day will have a hard time getting past him.
Rudy agrees. “Daddy’s gonna act deaf,” he says, his face turned towards Rose. “I’ll probably never open up for them.”
Rose just goes back to sleep.
Rudy and Ronelle, who were married in January, are besotted with their honeymoon baby.
This isn’t their first rodeo as parents but the couple say having Rose is a whole new experience for them.