On 29 June 2017, 23 year old Lifa Hlongwa from Seaview was running down the wing while playing flank for the Northwood  Crusaders 2nd XV against Amanzimtoti. His opponent was in his sights and he had positioning himself for the tackle. Minutes later he was lying on his back, numb from his shoulders to his toes and unable to move. Team mates rushed to his side worried about their friend, whilst match officials and medical staff followed the serious injury procedures they’d learnt about during BokSmart training!

After emergency care and hospitalisation, it was soon established that Lifa had sustained spinal cord damage which could affect his ability to walk in the future.  Playing rugby again was also probably out of the question. Lifa would have to face a long and challenging road involving intensive and specialised inpatient rehabilitation, to improve functional independence.

In response to Lifa’s injury, a meeting was set up with Gary Teichmann, Siseko Jafta and Dr Glen Hagermann from the Sharks Rugby Union, as well as John Smit and Gail Baerecke from the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund. The aim was to plan the best way forward for Lifa, by assisting him and his family to come to terms with the journey ahead.

As a result of this meeting and a display of true South African Ubuntu, the Life Entabeni Hospital Rehabilitation Centre received the call and pledged to provide up to 12 weeks of private rehabilitation for Lifa free of charge. This generous sponsorship is worth in the region of R300 000 and will provide Lifa with the best possible chance of becoming functionally independent before returning home to his family. Together the Players’ Fund and the Sharks Rugby Union committed to providing Lifa with all his mobility needs following rehab as well ongoing support for Lifa’s where needed.

Gail Baerecke from the Player’s Fund, who also holds the position of serious injury case manager (SICM) for SA Rugby’s BokSmart – national rugby safety programme had this to say…. “This unfortunate incident and the player involved have the right ingredients to make it a success story. Together as a team, I am confident we can achieve this.”

The overwhelming support from the Northwood Crusaders is another example of the real spirit of ubuntu. With the club activating a fundraising campaign within days of the accident and streams of messages filling the Northwood Crusaders social media pages. The team have also been in contact with Lifa’s employers, and they have confirmed that his position with them will be kept open for him pending his return.

The long road ahead of Lifa and his family will require ongoing support, so the challenge has been set to individuals and corporates who might be in the position to donate, to do so! The Northwood Crusaders have set up a fund for this reason, please DONATE today, every bit counts!

Bank details: Crusaders Rugby, Standard Bank, Acc : 032641257, Branch : Durban North, Reference : Lifa