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.

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