Former Springbok and Sharks flyhalf Patrick Lambie was forced to call time on his distinguished rugby career because of ongoing health concerns.
Lambie, speaking yesterday from Paris, said he had had dreams of playing for the Boks at the World Cup in Japan later this year before one day finishing his career at the Sharks, but has decided to retire from rugby on the advice of two leading neurologists.
The 28-year-old has been under a concussion cloud ever since suffering a heavy blow to the head in a sickening collision with Ireland’s CJ Stander in a Test match at Newlands in 2016. He subsequently incurred further head knocks playing for the Sharks and his (current) French club Racing Metro, but it has been while recovering from a serious knee injury sustained in May playing for Racing in the Heineken Cup final that he has felt ripple effects from his history of head injuries.
“It has been almost nine months now (since his last concussion, playing for Racing against Munster), and I am still experiencing symptoms,” Lambie said in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Tribune. “We have tried rest, medication, neck treatment, jaw treatment, eye rehabilitation, multivitamins ... and now I am to avoid any strenuous exercise and sports that require contact.”
In his 10-year career, Lambie played 56 times for the Springboks, including two World Cup campaigns; 101 times for the Sharks including two Currie Cup final wins; and in 18 matches for Racing played in a Heineken Cup final (Europe’s equivalent of the Super Rugby final).
In a Test match at Ellis Park in 2014, he indelibly wrote his name into the Springbok history books when he kicked a late, 55m penalty to sink the All Blacks and end their 22-match unbeaten run. As a teenager playing in a Currie Cup final at Kings Park in 2010, he famously fended off Springbok legend Schalk Burger on the way to scoring a match-winning try.
“My rugby career has been a wonderful journey. I hoped it would last a little longer, but it is time to move onto the next stage of my life,” Lambie said.
“It was a really big decision. I have extremely mixed emotions about it. On one hand I am bitterly disappointed and sad because I still had some dreams on the rugby field, and I still feel like some good playing days are ahead. But on the other hand, I feel relieved to know that I will not be at risk of further, more serious head injuries.
“My health and family are paramount. I hope to recover to full health soon as (my wife) Kate is pregnant and our family is growing in June this year.”
But rather than dwell on what could still have been, Lambie said that he is ultimately left counting his blessings.
“I feel very lucky to have experienced so much in my career. I have played in some great teams, with some great players and coaches, and I have made friendships and memories that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I have also felt very loved with all the support I have received in my career. This has been a wonderful journey.”@MikeGreenaway67