Springboks’ Lood de Jager opens up about heart condition that kept him out of World Cup

Springbok lock Lood De Jager in action during a Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Buenos Aires

FILE - Springbok lock Lood De Jager in action during a Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Buenos Aires. Photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP

Published Mar 13, 2024


Springbok lock Lood de Jager has finally opened up about the heart condition that kept him out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Before the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup squad was announced last year, De Jager was diagnosed with pericarditis, an inflammation of the pericardium, the thin, two-layered, fluid-filled sac that covers the outer surface of the heart.

The then 30-year-old, who was part of the successful side in 2019, was left out of the squad for the World Cup in France, where the Boks would go on to defend their title.

In an interview published by the Associated Press, De Jager said he was grateful the condition was caught when it was.

“They diagnosed me the day the (World Cup) squad got announced or the day before so the timing wasn’t ideal,” he said in the interview. “I’m just thankful I get to sit here. It could have been way worse.

“They could have missed it and I could have gone down and trained again or played again and you never know what might have happened. All in all I’m just grateful to be here.”

The former Cheetahs and Bulls lock currently plays in Japan for Panasonic Wild Knights, and has been given the green light to return to the field.

He went on to add that the whole episode, which was a “real big scare”, has given a new lease on life.

“The first couple of sessions when I could train again with the lads, I was like a kid again ... You can’t get enough of it.

“You get times in your career when you’re playing 20, 30 games on the bounce and your body’s real sore and you’re not keen for training. It’s amazing how that little break can just flick the switch again."

He went on to detail the moment he knew he required attention.

“The exact time I started feeling real symptoms which were worrying was we had a training before the Argentina test..."

"I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was suffocating. Just pressure on my chest and shortness of breath and just a very eerie feeling.

“I walked off the field and I told the doctor something’s not right. Obviously in that moment you’re not sure and you think maybe I’m a bit sick or its COVID.”

For the first 10 weeks after his diagnosis, De Jager wasn’t allowed to train, or get his heart rate 100 beats per minute.

“... It was just rest. Gradually they worked it up until I was allowed to train to my max heart rate. From the time I could start taking my heartbeat above 100, it was probably eight to 10 weeks before I was allowed to fully train."

De Jager will hope to get enough rugby in his legs to impress Rassie Erasmus ahead of the Springboks’ series against Ireland.

IOL Sport