By Alex Bywater
Former Ospreys wing Lesley Klim’s remarkable rugby journey saw him battle a childhood of family tragedy and the temptations of drugs and alcohol to make it as a professional.
The Namibian international wing represented his country at last year’s World Cup and went head-to-head with eventual winners South Africa and New Zealand in Pool B in Japan.
Earlier this summer he signed for Harvey Biljon’s Jersey after leaving Welsh rugby and in an age where most players progress through pampered academy set-ups, Klim has had to do things the hard way to get to where he is now. It included coping with the death of his mother Susana on his 16th birthday.
“I come from the southern part of Namibia. Keetmanshoop is the biggest town in that area,” said Klim, 25. “I grew up and went to school there, but there isn’t much happening and around me there were a lot of kids getting into the wrong way of life with drugs and alcohol.
“Those were temptations I had to work hard to avoid. I had challenges early on in my life which meant things could have turned out very differently for me.
“I knew what I wanted as a kid so I stayed away from trouble. I was very lucky to have what I needed and I lived with my grandparents.
“My mother worked away on the coast and I had an uncle – Oompokkie – who was the only really good sportsman in the family. He was a footballer and told me lots of stories about how good he was, but when I was 15 he died of lung cancer.
“I was actually in the hospital at the same time as him with a wind problem. It’s quite a funny story.
“We were in class and I was sat next to some beautiful girls. I wanted to fart, but I held it in. The wind went up and when I went to the toilet I started peeing blood.
“I knew something wasn’t right so I was in hospital for a week. To see my uncle dying while I was there wasn’t nice, especially as a kid.
“He passed on as did my grandfather who was in his mid 80’s. At the same time as all this was happening we found out my mother had Anaemia. When you are 16 it’s a very important school year in Namibia and if you fail those exams, you have to drop out.
“My birthday is on January 16 and that week my mother wasn’t speaking at all because of the Anaemia. On the 15th she wished me happy birthday. The next day, which was the morning of my birthday, we were still sleeping in the morning.
“We were all in one room. A few of my aunts came in, turned on the lights, and shook me.
“I was awake straight away and they started crying. I knew straight away my mother had passed away.
“That was three people who were very close to me that died and soon after that we lost my grandmother too. The family were very worried about me because I had to do my exams despite all of this.
“I used it as motivation for what I wanted to do in life. I was raised in a Christian home. That’s where my very strong faith comes from.
“In Namibia the maximum grade you can get is 42 and I got 40 which was a big shock to most people. It was a critical time for me and I had to decide then if I wanted to play football or rugby.
“I chose rugby. Sport gave me the means to keep going. I wouldn’t say it saved me, but at a difficult time it helped me a lot.”
Klim hasn’t looked back since. He moved to the Namibian capital of Windhoek to continue his education and it was there that his rugby ability was spotted.
Namibian international Lesley Klim is one of 15 new signings announced by @jerseyrfc over the last week ✍
— Greene King IPA Championship (@Champrugby) June 16, 2020
While studying at the Namibia University of Science and Technology he quickly appeared for the international side.
Klim’s raw pace saw him score twice against Spain and Italy and he then progressed to Namibian club side Welwitschias.
A switch to England with Doncaster followed. In March 2018 it was confirmed Klim had signed for the Ospreys, but his first season at the Liberty Stadium was a false dawn due to a hamstring injury.
He played three times after returning for Japan and showed his talent with a brace of tries in the Heineken Champions Cup defeat away to Racing 92 before coronavirus hit. Now his career has taken him to Jersey where he is set to be a central figure.
Klim, who has eight tries in 13 Tests for Namibia and speed to burn, said: “I feel very strong now. It’s every young boy’s dream to represent your country at a World Cup and I did it.
“The stuff I’ve been through has made me who I am and I think all those who have passed on, all of my family, and everyone from my town is very proud of me.”