Du Plessis: Safety first

Following the death of schoolboy Tommie Watson in a rugby match at the weekend, former Springbok captain Morne du Plessis has pleaded for better safety standards.

Du Plessis, the Chairman of the Chris Burger/Petro Jackson Players’ Fund, has called on the South African rugby community to double its efforts towards making the game safer, especially at schoolboy level.

Du Plessis’ call follows the death of Gerrit Maritz High School prop and head boy Watson who was fatally injured in a match last Saturday.

The Fund, established 26 years ago to assist disabled rugby players, has in recent years taken a proactive stance aimed at preventing catastrophic injuries.

Watson, 18, had been on life support machines after suffering a blow to the head. He was declared brain dead on Saturday night and the machines were turned off on Sunday night.

“This is a sad loss of a young life,” Du Plessis said. “We extend our condolences to Tommie’s family and express our sincere sympathy to all who knew him at this very difficult time”.

Du Plessis stressed that the Fund should be viewed as a service to the rugby community to assist in educating people as well as in establishing measures to improve safety and prevent life threatening injuries. The Fund produces a Coaches Log Book annually that aims to assist coaches in preparing young players for the demands of the game.

It is also involved in the training of Rugby Medics across the country and a few years ago introduced the SpineLine, an emergency response service, in partnership with NetCare 911.

“In the past three years, nine schoolboy rugby players have suffered catastrophic injuries. Whilst this number remains unacceptably high, Fund statistics demonstrate that our programmes have been effective in managing injuries and improving reaction times in areas where they have been widely implemented.”

“The great thing about these programmes is that they are readily available to any school or club in the country. Our challenge is to get the rugby community to support efforts to spread the Power of Prevention message. Any person who has a vested interest in the game should make safety their number one priority,” Du Plessis said.