Former Boks take leading roles at Players’ Fund

Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Former Springboks Jean de Villiers and Hanyani Shimange were on Tuesday elected as chairman and deputy chairman at a special general meeting of the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund.

After 38 years of leadership on the board of trustees, Morné du Plessis and Frikkie Naudé both announced that they would be stepping down from these positions, effective on Tuesday.

“Our Board of Trustees help set us apart from other organisations. The calibre of trustees and their combined passion and commitment has ensured a solid foundation for the Fund to do its work,” said Du Plessis.

“All organisations need a succession plan and we are delighted that young men like Jean and ‘Shimmy’ who have new ideas and passion for the cause, will be taking over the reins of Rugby’s Caring Hands.”

De Villiers has been a Board of Trustees member since February 2018 and, as a former Springbok captain, is well-positioned to take over the leadership reins to grow the Fund further – with the same commitment and passion he showed on the field during his provincial and national rugby tenure.

Shimange has been part of the Board of Trustees since September 2015. ‘Shimmy’, as he is fondly known, is also a former Springbok. He remains involved in rugby and is currently part of the Western Province coaching team.

Both new appointees come at a time of transition and renewal and have a firm base to build on with the unwavering support from the remaining 13 trustees and management staff.

In 1980, Western Province fullback Chris Burger sustained a fatal neck injury following a tackle during a Currie Cup match in Bloemfontein. At the time, Du Plessis captained the Western Province side and, along with his teammates, established the then Chris Burger Fund to support rugby players and their families following unfortunate injuries on the field.

“It is my belief that if we are supporting rugby, we need to support those whose lives are changed through the game too,” Du Plessis said at the time.

In 1987 Petro Jackson, a young player from Kylemore, near Stellenbosch, was fatally injured during a match and a similar fund was established in his honour. In 1992 these two funds joined forces. Since the formation, the Players’ Fund has acted as Rugby’s Caring Hands for over 500 seriously injured rugby players and is currently actively supporting 108 recipients.

“It has been a privilege to be the chairman of this organisation for the past 38 years. Thank you to each and every one who has supported our work in taking care of seriously injured rugby players in South Africa,” said Du Plessis.

Naudé said: “I am looking forward to further supporting the great work that the Fund does as a trustee member. The impact the Fund has on the quality of life of our recipients is remarkable. It is an organisation that lives its values every day.”

De Villiers, upon accepting the chair, said: “What a privilege and an honour it is for me to accept this role. I have very big shoes to fill and will do my best with the support of the board of trustees and management staff to maintain the great reputation and the positive impact that the Players’ Fund has.

“There is a reason the Players’ Fund is known as Rugby’s Caring Hands, everyone involved truly does care. We all love the game of rugby, however we all understand that sometimes bad things happen, which is where our responsibility lies, ensuring that those players are cared for and never forgotten.

“To outgoing chairman Morné du Plessis and deputy chairman Frikkie Naudé – what you have created & achieved through this Fund is a remarkable legacy, which has made a difference in so many lives over the last 38 years. Thank you for being such good-hearted people and for setting the example for us to follow.”

Shimange said: “This is a massive moment and I’m sure I speak on behalf of Jean and myself, when I say that it is overwhelming. We will need and rely on the support from the rest of the board and management committee as we build on the strong foundations that have been created by the great men whose chairs we have taken at the table. This is a privilege and an honour – thank you.”

About the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund:

The Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund provides physical, psychological and emotional assistance to rugby players in South Africa who have sustained serious, life-altering head, neck and spine injuries. Since 1980 the organisation has acted as Rugby’s Caring Hands for over 500 seriously injured players, currently actively supporting 108 recipients.

The Players’ Fund is alerted of serious and life-altering injuries through the BokSmart reporting process. Following on-field care and during the acute medical care in hospital, the immediate needs of the individual and their family are assessed and the Fund steps in to assist where necessary. The Fund provides support that includes the provision of mobility equipment, medical consumable allocations, financial support and secondary rehabilitation support (amongst others).

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