Pumas flyhalf Eddie Fouche says he is determined to come back stronger after sharing his experience of a frightening injury last year. DYLAN JACK reports.
Prior to the start of Super Rugby Unlocked, few South Africans would have heard of Eddie Fouche. The 23-year-old, who grew up in Nelspruit and Middelburg before finishing his schooling at Affies in Pretoria, joined the Lions after school.
However, he struggled to get regular game time as he found himself playing behind both captain Elton Jantjies and his deputy, Shaun Reynolds. A return home to Mpumalanga with the Pumas followed as Fouche looked to kickstart his rugby career.
While his start to life with the Pumas was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Fouche found himself preparing to face South Africa’s best when it was confirmed that his team would be taking part in Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup.
Personally, his first two games for the Pumas could not have gone better. The Pumas suffered a heavy 53-31 loss to the Cheetahs in their opener, before bouncing back with a 27-21 win over Griquas in Kimberley. Fouche stood out in both, maintaining a 100% success rate off the kicking tee, with a total of seven conversions and three penalties.
His reputation would only be enhanced as the Pumas flew out of the blocks in their following match against the Stormers, opening up an early 20-7 lead against one of the tournament favourites, with Fouche continuing his success with two conversions and three penalties.
However, from there it all went wrong as Fouche went into a breakdown to steal possession, but buckled under a cleanout and was left in clear pain. He was later diagnosed with a dislocated hip and a grade-two MCL tear.
‘Someone broke the line but was tackled and I went in for the steal,’ he told SARugbymag.co.za. ‘There was nobody on the ball, so I was first to it. In the future, I think I would just take the ball and get out of there as soon as possible. Obviously, I spent too long on the ball and I wasn’t looking up, I was just focused on getting the ball or earning a penalty.
‘All of a sudden, I just felt a collapse. At first there wasn’t pain, but as soon as I tried moving, I felt a horrible pain in my hip. Initially, not being able to move, I thought that I had broken my hip. It just shocked me. I have never felt pain like that before. I have been hit with javelins in my foot before and had a few injuries before, but this was different. It was just so painful.
‘Obviously, the emotions started coming through. Being so far ahead against the Stormers, you are on a high and you are pumped. As soon as I realised I couldn’t go on, I just broke into emotions. I felt like I was riding a wave and had fallen off my surfboard. Now I have to swim, get back on that board and start reading the waves again.
‘I knew I would have to dig deeper. I had so much momentum on the field, not only personally, but with the team as well. Ending a season like that is not fun. The biggest thing is that when injuries like that happen, you tend to go into your shell. Since then, the mind games start. Your mind starts playing tricks on you. Luckily, I stay out of town. I am surrounded by nature, so I had space to relax mentally and let my mind go, which was quite nice and really helped.’
After missing the rest of the Super Rugby and Currie Cup season through injury, Fouche has successfully recovered and rejoined his teammates in a shortened pre-season before their expected participation in the Franchise Cup.
‘We have been at it for around two weeks now,’ Fouche said. ‘After this week, we are done with week two. So, we are having a little pre-season. It’s only a short span, so it has been quite fun. It’s nice to be back grafting as a unit.
‘I must say, my energy levels and frustrations with the injuries are getting worked out of the system. For me, it is really enjoyable to be back on the field, being with the team and having to graft to get myself back to the top again. I always believe in hard work to get yourself back into a first-team position. It is never just going to happen. I am just grafting and giving myself the best opportunity.’
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images