Ruben Kruger dies of brain cancer

Ruben Kruger, former Springbok flank and 1995 Rugby World Cup winner, has died in Pretoria on Wednesday night after a protracted battle with brain cancer.

Kruger, who would have turned 40 on March 30, was diagnosed with a brain tumour soon after his playing career ended in 1999.

Kruger had battled the brain tumour since 2000, where it was diagnosed after he blacked out during a game.

After the initial operation to remove the tumour seemed to be a success, Kruger discovered a few years later that the tumour had resurfaced.

He was in the news again early in 2009, when he had to be airlifted from Bloemfontein after feeling ill while returning with his family from holiday in Herolds Bay.

A five-hour operation followed, where doctors said they had removed "90%" of the tumour in the operation. The tumour was described as "the size of a man’s fist".

Sadly for Kruger, the tumour was too sensitively placed to completely remove, and it resurfaced in June 2009 when he blacked out while driving and was involved in a car accident.

This past week Kruger began feeling unwell again and was admitted to hospital.

Kruger's rugby career

Kruger made his Test debut on 6 November 1993 against Argentina in Buenos Aires aged 23. He played his last Test on 4 November 1999 against New Zealand in Cardiff aged 29. He played 36 Tests in total, scoring seven tries. He also played in 20 tour matches.

Kruger had fought back from a broken leg suffered in a Tri-Nations match in 1996 to earn selection to the 1999 World Cup squad and fought his recurring illness with typical bravery and stoicism.

Nicknamed the “Silent Assassin” by coach Kitch Christie during the 1995 Rugby World Cup he scored a controversial try in the semi-final played in a deluge against France in Durban but was denied what appeared to be a certain try by referee Ed Morrison in the Ellis Park final.

Considered the kingpin of the side he was named SA Rugby Player of the Year for 1995.

Kruger, who hailed from Vrede in the Free State and went to Grey College, is survived by his wife Lize and two daughters Zoe and Isabella.

At provincial level he was a stalwart of both Free State and the Blue Bulls.

Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date. - (Sapa, January 2010)

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