Savannah Connacher

'I'm going to hand-cycle 94.7km!'

Players' Fund recipient GERHARD SWARTS on his rugby injury, staying positive and keeping busy.

How did you get injured?
I was 14 years old and playing for Hoërskool Kanonkop in Middelburg, Mpumalanga. It happened about 10 minutes into the game. I broke through the defence and the fullback tackled me. Somebody then fell on my neck in the ruck.

What went through your mind at the time?
I couldn't feel or move anything. I immediately knew I was paralysed, because of what had happened to my sister. She and my father had been in a car crash a few years earlier. My father passed away and my sister became a quadriplegic, which I am now too. 

How did your recovery go?
I am extremely blessed in this regard. I went to rehab for five months and haven't had to go back to the hospital for any serious issues over the past 17 years. The Players' Fund gave me my first wheelchair, for which I'm extremely grateful. My family and friends really helped me to stay positive and to continue to lead a somewhat normal life. 

What did you do after school?
I went to Tuks [University of Pretoria] to study education and did my honours in sports and recreation management. I ended up coaching the Tuks Kiaat U20 team when I was 21. We were the koshuis champions for two years in a row even though Kiaat wasn't known for koshuis rugby at the time! I absolutely loved it. I wanted to study for as long as possible, so I could keep coaching.

What have you been up to since then?
I've worked as a sports analyst and statistician for the Valke Rugby Union and for Tuks in this year's Varsity Cup until the tournament was suspended.

What's helped you to stay positive?
My faith in God is a massive part of how I stay positive. I also have to keep busy, exercise and stay active. I make sure my days are filled with things to do.

What type of exercise do you enjoy?
I was extremely involved in wheelchair rugby but had to stop after finding out I have osteoporosis in my hips. I have been training for the 94.7 Cycle Challenge, which would have been my first hand-cycling event but it was cancelled. That didn't stop me, though, as I'm still training for it! A few of my friends and I have decided to do the 94.7km on the day the race would've taken place. My friend and I started a GivenGain page for the 'race' to raise funds for the Players' Fund as it has been a hard year for them. I really want to give back to the organisation after all they've done for me. They are like family to me!

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