Ken Borland

By Ken Borland


Bulls lock’s Covid fright: ‘I won’t take rugby for granted again’

"I had just 20% heart function before the operations but it’s all perfect now."

It is not that surprising to see young Bulls lock Walt Steenkamp playing with extreme vigour in the Rainbow Cup, given that the 25-year-old came down with Covid at the end of last year, which then affected his heart, meaning he only returned to the field three weeks ago.

Steenkamp came down with a particularly virulent but rare strain of the Covid-19 virus that attacks the heart muscle, leaving him with arrhythmia, a condition in which his heart-rate struggles to return to normal after exercise. It actually required surgery in which the misfiring electrical signals are corrected.

“After five months of not playing it’s lovely to be back and playing in a winning team again,” Steenkamp said this week.

“But it was quite heavy going through that, I will take nothing for granted again when it comes to playing rugby, it was a big fright. Fortunately the doctors never said I would definitely have to give up rugby, so I always believed I would come back.

“I actually had to have the operation twice, it’s called an ablation – they insert catheters that destroy the tissue that’s causing the abnormal heart signals, turn it into scar tissue. I had just 20% heart function before the operations but it’s all perfect now. And I really value being back in the lovely culture of this team.”

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The former Free State Cheetahs and North-West Leopards star has made a big impact since joining the Bulls last November and has made some major plays, especially a crucial lineout steal five metres from his team’s own line against the Sharks when the Bulls had just gone 19-9 up last weekend.

Steenkamp clearly has a big engine, he is mobile but also a big-hitter in the physical exchanges.

But even as a relative youngster, Steenkamp has noticed how the game of rugby is changing, which presents fresh challenges, especially in terms of adapting to the new way tackles are being refereed, which many people consider a cancer in the game.

“Rugby has changed a lot, but Jake White is a mastermind, he knows what it takes to win and we’re doing the right things at the moment,” Steenkamp said.

“The rules now make it harder to do what locks used to do. There’s more focus on fitness now and we have to be more careful, especially when it comes to tackles.”

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Bulls Rugby Team Jake White

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