Pierre Spies could have inherited more than just his prodigious talent from his late father. He could well have inherited a rare blood disease that killed him.
Pierre Spies senior, a sensational wing for Northern Transvaal, died of a heart attack when he was just 54. Spies’ grandfather died of the illness, while his aunt also has the “thrombolitic” blood condition.
Mike Greenaway of The Mercury reports that Spies was unaware that he may have inherited the problem until he started coughing up blood during last week’s training camp in Cape Town. Scans at a Durban hospital on Tuesday showed he had clots on both lungs.
“Of course it is a setback,” coach Jake White said. “Pierre is one of those unique players who can turn a game on its head with a spectacular try from 60m out. He is the kind of player that is priceless at a World Cup. That great try he scored against England earlier this year sums up what he could have done for us in France.”
Team doctor Yussuf Hassan on Tuesday explained to White in layman’s terms what had happened to Spies.
“Basically his blood is thick, the doctor told me,” White said. “If it clots and goes into his brain while he is training he will have a stroke. If the clot goes into his heart he will have a heart attack. He is now on medication to thin his blood over a period of six months and his blood will be closely monitored.
“He can run and train in the gym but he cannot take contact, because if he gets bruised his blood will clot. So while he looks like a race horse, he cannot play contact sport.”
White said the players, especially his Bulls teammates, were shocked and down after the news of Spies’ withdrawal.
“There was a message in this, though, to the players in that we are all lucky to be fit and part of a World Cup, but that it is a fragile assurance, and you could wake up in the morning and it is gone,” he said.
“We said an emotional farewell to Pierre and on the morning he left. We want him to come to our farewell banquet. I don’t want any player to think he is forgotten when he gets injured.”