By Dan Lombard

The Springboks against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld on 6 October 2018 was marketed as #TheUltimateTest since the news broke that Pretoria would host New Zealand and it certainly delivered as close to 50 000 passionate supporters were treated to a spectacle of rugby.

Amongst the thousands of supporters that descended on Loftus Versfeld, were seven recipients of the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund who had been looking forward to the match with excited anticipation.

Jzaun Dreyer, Dyllan Beneckhe, Koben Hofmeyr, Dan Lombard, Jannie Louw, Gerhard Swarts and Andries Roux were joined by family and friends as well as Tori Gardner from the Players’ Fund with the Blue Bulls/Players’ Fund suite going above and beyond for Rugby’s Fallen Heroes.

Dyllan Beneckhe, Anrdies Roux, Jannie Louw, Jzaun Dreyer, Gerhard Swarts and Koben Hofmeyr meeting before the Springbok clash against the All Blacks at Loftus on Saturday 6 October 2018. (Photo cred: Players’ Fund / Nardus Engelbrecht)

Hofmeyr (16), who is one of the more recent former rugby players to join the Players’ Fund, thoroughly enjoyed his first Test at Loftus Versfeld. The young man was involved in a catastrophic injury during a match as Hoërskool Louis Trichardt’s U16A captain with the inside center fracturing his neck and losing the ability to stand amongst other complications.

He has made incredible strides since his accident and continues to work hard at his rehabilitation. His recovery can only be described as a miracle considering that many injured players are never able to walk again, yet the tenacious Hofmeyr has already begun his first steps towards gaining as much mobility as possible.

Hofmeyr, who rates Jesse Kriel as his favourite player, got his first serving of the Springboks the day before the Test as he, along with his physiotherapist Melanie Harding, were invited to the captain’s run where the men in Green and Gold posed for photos and took the effort to listen attentively to his story before signing several pieces of Springbok regalia.

It was an experience that was out of this world for the 16-year-old Hofmeyr and he had something special to say after the nail-biting Test between two of world rugby’s superpowers.

“It was an absolute pleasure to be part of the Springbok captain’s run where I got to watch them train and chat to them. What stood out for me was when Siya Kolisi called me by name. That meant a lot to me. The entire experience was phenomenal,” said Hofmeyr with a broad smile.

“The game was spectacular and to be given this HUGE opportunity by the Players Fund! I do not have words to thank them for everything they have done for me and my family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he added.

Rodwill Beneckhe, the father of Dyllan, was also in attendance and has been a figure of inspiration in the way he has supported his son since his injury in 2014. As much as he is proud of the way Dyllan has risen to the challenge of living life as a quadriplegic, it still hurts to see his once active and energetic son in a wheelchair.

“As a parent, seeing your son’s life change in every single way imaginable is the hardest thing I have ever had to experience. There are so many things I wanted to do with Dyllan which is now near impossible,” said Beneckhe.

“I would like to encourage parents to learn from our experience as a family and make every effort to watch your children play as much sport as possible because you never know when life can change,” he added.

The match itself was a bruising affair with the players throwing everything and the kitchen sink at each other while it was incredible to see so many South Africans united for a common cause.

Unfortunately, the result was snatched away from the Springboks with two minutes to go but supporters including the seven brave men watching from the suite, left Loftus Versfeld with a burning pride. The Springboks are back and we were privileged to have watched them take on the reigning world champions.

* The Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund would like to wish All Black flank Sam Cane a speedy recovery after the neck injury that he sustained in the match against the Springboks.