Ashwin Willemse – arguably South Africa’s most courageous rugby player – has begun the long road back to rugby with a successful knee operation.
Willemse was released from hospital last Friday after spending two days recovering from the ligament operation.
The Cats and Springbok wing has been beset with injury setbacks throughout a career that has seen him reach the pinnacle of individual achievement in the game in this country when he was named SA Rugby Player of the Year in 2003.
Unfortunately, the lows have so far outweighed the highs of this fightersâ€™ career. Willemse is adamant the last has not been seen of him on the rugby fields of the world though.
The latest setback came in his comeback match against the Sharks at Ellis Park last month. Before injuring his knee in a tackle in the 77th minute, Willemse had looked a class apart in an admittedly woeful Cats backline.
“I’m still in a little bit of discomfort,” Willemse told keo.co.za, “but the op was a success on the day and everything went according to plan.”
“I have a check up in two weeks. The way I feel right now is not what I want, but I know I have to go through this pain if Iâ€™m ever going to get back on the rugby field. People have had a lot worse to deal with. I have to accept it and just bounce back.”
Willemse is doing little right now apart from a few basic rehab and strengthening exercises. “Iâ€™m not allowed to do too much with the knee. Itâ€™s just a case of waiting for the swelling to go down. Mostly what keeps me busy right now is my kids.”
Willemse has a three-year-old daughter, Kiora, and an eighth-month old son â€“ Ashwin jnr. “He is more than a handful in fact he is two!” laughs Willemse. “I have two hands and one leg to look after him and itâ€™s helping keep me fit at least.”
By Andrew Hollely