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Cape Town - Family, friends and several Western Province players were among those offering their support yesterday to 15-year-old rugby player Rowan Hermanus, paralysed during a match when he tackled an opponent from Tygerberg High School.
The Swartland High School pupil was all smiles at the surprise visit from some of his idols, including Gio Aplon, Burton Francis and Marcel Brache.
“I know Burton, he’s like family. But I only know Gio and Marcel from TV. It was really nice having them here, it means they believe that I will walk again,” Rowan said.
“Gio said I must just keep faith and keep strong, and that he can see I’m a fighter. Marcel told me the whole team is thinking about me, and Burton said we must keep trying.”
Aplon said he was confident Rowan would walk again.
“He’s got the fight in him. He’s practising to keep his arms moving, that’s positive. We look forward to seeing him walk again, though it will take a lot of support and prayer from friends and his family,” he said, adding they would return to visit whenever possible.
The teen prop forward was left paralysed when he broke his seventh and ninth vertebrae after falling head-first after tackling an opponent.
Western Cape Health Department spokesman Mark van der Heever said: “He is in a stable condition and will be transferred from ICU to a normal ward during next week.”
Rowan’s father Rowland Hermanus said the incident happened extremely fast.
“It happened in the sixth minute after he had just scored a try. He tackled the flyhalf and four minutes later I noticed he wasn’t moving.”
Rowan added: “I had both my arms around him and I fell something like a front flip, on my head, and landed in the foetal position.”
He knew immediately he was paralysed. “Nobody had to tell me. I knew it on the field when I couldn’t move my legs.”
He said he was afraid, but had no intention of “sitting in a wheelchair and doing nothing all day”.
“I was scared. I still want to play cricket, I don’t want to sit in a wheelchair,” said Rowan.
Ironically, Rowan only played rugby for the exercise.
Herman Dreyer, Rowan’s rugby coach, said the team would work hard to win their inter-schools game next week for Rowan.
“It’s a great shame that he got hurt. That was a good tackle and there was nothing wrong with it. At the same time, this has brought the whole team together to rally behind Rowan,” he said.
Marais Erasmus, an international cricket umpire who helped coach Rowan at Swartland High, said he hoped to see Rowan back on the pitch.
“He’s very good cricketer too. He could potentially play for Boland. He’s a classy batsman and offspin bowler, with a good sense of cricket for a young man,” he said.
Swartland High principal Dirk Marais said he was blown away by the support Rowan was receiving.
“Everybody is getting involved to support him. Rola Motors in Malmesbury even supplied us with a Volkswagen bus for the children to travel in when they go to visit Rowan in hospital.
“We are positive and praying that he will walk again,” he said.