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'Basically dead three times'

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'I'm lucky to be alive because I was basically dead three times in 2018'

Former Saracens hooker Ethienne Reynecke will be 37-years-old on March 20th – a birthday he never thought would be celebrated after nearly losing his life three times in his native South Africa last year.

Reynecke, who also played for Stormers, Lions and Connacht and is a SuperSport commentator, admits he is lucky to be alive after he suffered a stroke and was shot at in a robbery. He told Sport24: “It’s true what they say – you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. But I’m lucky to be alive because I was basically dead three times in 2018. I had a blood clot on the brain, suffered a stroke and was shot at in a robbery at the Spar.

“I’m like that old PC of yours that is slow because the ROM is full. I must get the motherboard working at 100% again. I’m suffering from aphasia (a language disorder that affects one’s ability to communicate), which happens after a stroke or head injury. Not being able to speak properly, read or pronounce names or numbers has been challenging.”

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Reynecke never had to be admitted to a hospital ward during his rugby career but that has all changed since hanging up his boots. “Post-career, I ended up spending almost a month in ICU”, adding “It’s been three months now and I have to keep going. I draw inspiration from my daughters Layla and Ave-Mari, who are both ‘hoofmeisies’ (head girls). My eldest is class leader and has attained academic merit. When I had the stroke it was actually Layla who recognised that something was wrong with me. She said, ‘I think daddy must go to hospital.’

“Going from speaking on SuperSport to having my seven-year-old complete my sentences, I have learned that humility comes in many different forms. We all have challenges to overcome and I’m taking it day for day. Through the grace of God, I have started wrestling again, and I am grateful for the small things. You have to keep fighting, as the world doesn’t wait for anybody.”

Reynecke has recovered sufficiently to take part in this weekend’s Cape Cycle Tour on Sunday. “It’s great to be in Cape Town ahead of the race and I will be riding for a good cause in this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour on Sunday. As someone who suffered from Bell’s Palsy, I’m familiar with not being able to smile normally. “

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'I'm lucky to be alive because I was basically dead three times in 2018'