'It’s like there’s nothing to smile about': Promising disabled rugby player’s dreams on hold yet again

2019-06-26 16:17
JP Strydom. (Photo: Supplied)

JP Strydom. (Photo: Supplied)

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"It’s like there’s nothing for us to smile about."

These are the words of Anneke van der Schyff (49) whose son’s promising rugby career had to be put on hold once again.

The first time it happened was when her son, JP Strydom, lost his leg on June 6 in 2011 at the age of 16, after a drunk driver in a BMW ran him over while he was out on his motorbike.

"The same day he lost his leg [he’d been] chosen to play for the Leopards Rugby Union," his mom recalls.  

According to the upset mom, the youngster couldn’t bear the thought of not being on a rugby field ever again.

'Mom, I’ll never play rugby again’

"The first words when I got to the hospital after the accident, I’ll never forget. He said, ‘Mom, I’ll never play rugby again’."

"He was a great rugby player," she adds.

It’s been a trying journey for JP, now 24, and his family from Rustenburg.

But instead of drowning in his sorrows, JP has persevered.

A few months after his horrific accident, the young man was sponsored with his first prosthesis by Jacaranda FM’s Good Morning Angels and former Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn.

Within a year after being fitted with a prosthesis, JP started playing his favourite sport again and even received a rugby player of the year award in 2014.

A devastating call

In recent years, JP has been a member of M Civils rugby club and has taken part in the Jaap Steyn League as well as various other tournaments.

He now plays for the Brits Rugby Club.

But he recently received a devastating call from the Blue Bulls Rugby Union, saying that he shouldn’t be playing rugby because his prosthetic leg poses a safety risk, Anneke says.

"There was never an accident because of his leg," she adds.

"He’s very unhappy; I think it’s unfair. And why now?"

JP Strydom

Anneke says her son is heartbroken and has gone through so much.

"We’ve lost so much – first his leg, then his brother hung himself a few years ago. This is something that’s keeping JP busy."

She can’t help but think everything is falling apart, she says.

"It’s quite difficult."

Despite being barred from taking part in the sport, JP still goes to rugby practice every week.

"I can see the heartbreak in his face. I know I need to help him, but I don’t know how."

Why do they have to crush his dreams

"Can the sun not shine for him? Why do they have to crush his dreams," Anneke asks.  

"I live for rugby," JP tells YOU.

He says he couldn’t stop crying on Saturday when he was watching his teammates play.  

"My seven-year-old son now wants to play my position," JP says. “He even asked, ‘Daddy, can I play number 3?’"

It has always been JP’s dream to play on Brits’ first team and now everything is lost, he says.

"I still want to play."

JP Strydom

In May this year, Eben Havenga Orthopaedic Services fitted JP with a new prosthetic socket.  

According to the company, the new socket can withstand high-impact forces, acceleration, deceleration, torque and shearing forces.   

JP was also fitted with a Proflex XC and a Torsion prosthetic foot, both of which have been designed for high-activity sports.

"The pylon and foot have been fitted with a cushioned cosmetic cover and an EVA copolymer cover respectively," orthotist and prosthetist Eben Havenga said in a letter.

"These have been fitted to protect the other players from being injured by Mr Strydom’s prosthetic componentry during training and games."

JP’s captain, Brandon Gibson, says JP, who plays the prop position, is one of the most inspirational guys you’ll ever meet.

"He has to practice harder than anyone else because of his disability and this disability has never held him back at all."

"He was never chosen for the team because of sympathy but [because of his] commitment."

JP has been playing his heart out, Brandon adds.

"Before every game, I secure his prosthetic to his leg and [his exclusion now is] so devastating for all of us."

He believes JP’s treatment is discriminatory and will now approach the Equality Court.

"His leg is soft. It’s not a hard piece of plastic," Brandon stresses.

He describes JP as a passionate and dedicated player who puts the club first.

JP Strydom

Blue Bulls Rugby Union CEO Dr Eugene Hare says the union was notified by its referee who was officiating a game where a player was playing with a prosthesis and he wasn’t sure what to do.

"The Blue Bulls Rugby Union wasn’t aware of this and didn’t give permission to the player involved," Hare tells YOU.

The union then referred the matter to Clint Readhead, senior manager: medical at the South African Rugby Union.  

Hare says Readhead referred to the world rugby regulations and apparently a player can’t play with a prosthetic leg.

"Due to this law, and to provide clarity by example, a player may not wear a knee, ankle, wrist, elbow or shoulder brace with a hinge in it or a wrist guard with rigid plastic in it to provide support," Readhead said in his response to the Blue Bulls.

"Therefore, as per regulation 12 and law 4, a player may not participate in rugby wearing a prosthesis."

JP Strydom

Hare says although Brits Rugby Club plays in the Blue Bulls competition, it’s situated in North West and falls under the Leopards Rugby Union.

"They could not furnish us with confirmation that the player got permission or may play with his prosthesis. We have requested Brits [Rugby Club] not to play with the player until all is clear."

JP is still perplexed about all of this.

"Why didn’t they stop me seven years back? And we’re already halfway through the season."

"I’d really love them to give me another chance," he pleads.

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