Springboks forward returns to action after heart condition wrecked his Rugby World Cup dreams

Springboks second-row Lood de Jager will finally make his return to the game after almost six months on the sidelines.

The lock is being eased back after being named in Saitama Wild Knights’ reserve side for a training match against Toyota Verblitz on Saturday.

De Jager has not played since midway through 2023 after he was diagnosed with a heart condition a day before their Rugby World Cup squad was announced.


In July 2023, he played his final match for South Africa against the All Blacks at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, where they lost 35–20. He only played 43 minutes.

The seasoned forward was later found to have pericarditis, an inflammatory condition of the lining surrounding the heart that can arise from working out when ill with the flu or cold.

After receiving the all-clear to return to action from the cardiac specialist, De Jager announced in December that he had returned to training.

To be able to play a match, the 31-year-old acknowledged that it would take some time for him to gain the strength and conditioning necessary.

“I can play again,” he told Rapport last month.

“I will have to build up my fitness again after not being allowed to do anything for more than three months. I’m pretty unfit.”

De Jager was pencilled in to be back out on the field before the end of January and, just a month after being allowed to restart his career, he will play for the Wild Knights against Toyota in a reserve game.

World Cup hopes dashed

The lock was compelled to watch the World Cup from home as the Springboks won their second straight title—and their fourth overall—due to the cardiac issue.

He started five of the team’s matches, including the three knockout games, and was a vital member of the 2019 team that won the Webb Ellis Cup.

But De Jager was limited to just 21 minutes in the championship game as he sustained a shoulder injury that would sideline him for four months.

Before they defended their championship in France last year, South Africa went on to win the showpiece event against England in a stunning 32–12 victory.

The second-row has earned over 60 caps for the national team and will now look to put himself back in the international reckoning after recovering from the heart condition.

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