Springbok flank Schalk Burger says he had to fight for his life after developing bacterial meningitis in 2013.
The flanker had gone to hospital to have a cyst removed from his spinal chord, and was moved into intensive care when his situation deteriorated.
'I remember the day where my wife phoned and everyone said‚ listen‚ this is probably it‚ it's time to say goodbye. I wasn't ready to say goodbye‚' Burger said while accepting the Laureus Comeback of the Year award on Wednesday.
'It was super scary if you think back now. But when you're going through the middle of this and there's no time to think really‚ there's no time to think about consequences; it was pretty much just me versus something.
'The odds weren't on my side‚ as I gather. It's probably one that I shouldn't have come out being as normal as I am. But for me‚ through a bit of luck and I think through a bit of stubbornness‚ I was able to pull through.'
Former Springbok captain Morné du Plessis‚ who was also manager of the 1995 World Cup-winning team‚ said: 'I have known Schalk and his family for many years and I know that there were very real concerns for his wellbeing during his illness. It really was a great relief for his family‚ friends and supporters to just see him well again‚ not even to think at that stage that he would make a miraculous comeback and be back to his best on the rugby pitch.'
Burger returned to the Bok squad ahead of the 2014 Rugby Championship, before playing a key role for the Boks during the end-of-year tour, where he was named Man of the Match in the victory over England at Twickenham.
Laureus Awards winners:
World Sportsman of the Year: Novak Djokovic
World Sportswoman of the Year: Genzebe Dibaba
World Team of the Year: Germany Men’s Football Team
World Breakthrough of the Year: Daniel Ricciardo
World Comeback of the Year: Schalk Burger
World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Tatyana McFadden
World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Alan Eustace
Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images