'A zest for life' - Tributes to popular rugby player, 44

Tributes have been paid to Jake van Poortvliet, who captained the men's side at  Holt Rugby Football Club.

Tributes have been paid to Jake van Poortvliet, who captained the men's side at Holt Rugby Football Club. - Credit: Supplied by Clare van Poortvliet

He was known as a fun and friendly family man with a love of the land and a passion for rugby.

And now tributes have been paid to Jake van Poortvliet, who died last month aged just 44.

Jake, from Banningham in north Norfolk, is survived by Bess, five, Gus, six and Alfie, nine, and his wife Clare.

He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in November 2018.

Although the disease had an increasing impact on his life, Clare said he would always be remembered as the strong and kind man that he was. 

 Jake van Poortvliet with children Bess, Gus and Alfie.

Jake van Poortvliet with children Bess, Gus and Alfie. - Credit: Supplied by Clare van Poortvliet

She said: “He was amazing and had a true zest for life. There was never a dull moment when Jake was around.

"He was competitive, ambitious, full of fun and a real family man. He was devoted to rugby and to Holt Rugby Club.”

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Jake was the son of Neil and Hilary and has siblings Holly, Evie and Bruce.

He attended Colby Primary School, Aylsham High School and then Paston College in North Walsham. 

Jake then went to Harper Adams, a former agricultural college and now university in Shropshire.

Returning to Norfolk, he worked as a grain trader for a number of different companies, and then carried on the family tradition of their father and grandfather by going into farming himself. 

He and his brother Bruce took over the running of the family’s farm at Banningham after Neil van Poortvliet stepped down. 

He and Clare first met around 20 years ago, and they married at North Walsham’s Sacred Heart church in 2009. 

Jake joined Holt Rugby Football Club as a junior and threw his heart into the club, captaining its 1st XV side in 2003, 2004, 2005 and then again in 2008.

In 2008 he steered the side into the Rugby Football Union Level 7, London North East 2 Division, for the first time. 

Chris Harrison, club president, said: “Jake was an exceptional captain who commanded loyalty and respect from his team-mates as well as the wider club membership.  

“His rugged and robust standard of play was a joy to watch; just as his fellowship and friendship in the clubhouse after matches was enjoyed by all.

“After success on the field, Jake and his family were regularly in attendance at the Mini’s and Youth Sundays, where his own children have become lively participants in the younger age groups following in Jake’s footsteps.

“Jake gave his time willingly for the club throughout his career and provided his well-honed coaching skills for future rugby players.

“Jake leaves a wonderful legacy for Holt RFC through his playing and captaining skills, together with his good humour and social friendships made with so many club members, as well as the wider rugby fraternity throughout East Anglia.”

A celebration of Mr van Poortvliet’s life was due to be held at St. Botolph Church in Banningham on July 15.