He’s been told he was a fighter, says national tag rugby player Chadwin Smith, 23, from Mountview. Smith has been selected as part of the national squad set to take part in the International Tag Federation’s (ITF) Confederations Cup, in Ireland, in August.
Don’t be fooled by the light frame, fleet-footed and agile, he’s known to run rings around much bigger defenders with his quick hands, slick sidestep and lighting speed. But then again, size does not matter much when it comes to this particular brand of rugby, a sport usually associated with big blokes and big tackles.
Diagnosed with a rare form of meningitis at the age of 4 that nearly killed him, a tough contact sport like rugby was never going to get his doctor’s approval. Although he played the odd game of regular rugby, the risk of injury prevented him from pursuing it. Understandably so, as meningitis is not to be messed with. A disease that affects the brain and is more common among babies, young children, teenagers and the elderly, meningitis can lead to serious damage, even death, if not treated promptly.
Smith is among the lucky ones having undergone successful treatment in his early years but the potentially deadly disease made an unwelcome return in his teenage years.
“At the age of 4, I was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. The only scene I can recall is me laying on this bed with drips and machines. I then got it again at the age of 16. I was terrified of needles but I had to take it as my life was at risk. I can recall my doctor telling me I am a fighter and I asked my mother why did the doctor say that. She told me that If it was five minutes later, I would not be here today. For that I am truly grateful and thank the Almighty every day for allowing me to open my eyes to be with family and to keep pushing and reaching my goals.”
Sporty by nature, Smith could barely wait to get back on his feet and toss or kick a ball with friends once on the mend. Equally adept at soccer, he has earned provincial colours in the sport on three occasions while at school, but always preferred running around with the oval-shaped ball in hand. As luck would have it, a friend introduced him to tag rugby about four years ago when he was invited to tag along to a match at Newlands.
“The reason I chose tag rugby was because I enjoyed playing rugby and I’m always ready to learn new things,” he said.
One thing led to another and soon he got his first call-up to the national Tagbok squad for a test series against Ireland in 2019. Now he’s gearing up to travel to Ireland again, this time for the Confed Cup. To help raise funds for the trip, Smith has been organising various fund-raisers, including a high tea, on Saturday June 11, at Turfhall. If you’d like to support, call Smith on 071 058 4928.