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VIDEO: Jake White explains lock's scary heart condition

INJURY UPDATE: Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has revealed that a bout of COVID is the cause of talented young lock Walt Steenkamp’s heart condition.


Steenkamp, 25, who joined the Bulls from the Cheetahs last year, has not played since December.

It was revealed this week – in an extensive Bulls medical update – that Steenkamp has a problem with his heart that required a ‘procedure’.

White, who described it as a “one in a million” occurrence, told a virtual media briefing that the condition – a heart arrhythmia – is the result of a bout of COVID.

The lock’s case is related to a COVID outbreak in the Bulls camp in December – which resulted in the cancellation of their Round Four Currie Cup match against Griquas.

“Following the COVID issue we had to check the player to see if he can start training again,” White explained – adding that former Olympic long-distance runner Zola Budd struggled with a similar heart condition after a COVID-19 infection.

The 54-year-old barefoot runner – who competed at the 1984 Olympic Games for Great Britain and the 1992 Olympic Games for South Africa – used to be able to get her heart from an in competition or training high of well above 100 beats per minute to a resting heart rate of below 60 beats per minute within 45 seconds. However, subsequent to a bout of COVID it took Budd four minutes to achieve the same result.

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“That is the reason why we had to test the player,” White explained, adding: “The player may have had COVID and you think everything is fine. [However,] it is a respiratory virus, so if that gets into your heart it is tough for an athlete.”

The Bulls Director of Rugby was full of praise for the medical staff for the efficient and speedy manner in which they diagnosed and dealt with Van der Walt’s condition.

“They tested him and found an issue with his heart rhythm. They found a ‘trigger’ that disrupted his heart rhythm [an arrhythmia] and they had to do a procedure where they rectified the muscles in the heart to ensure the incidents [of arrhythmia] no longer occur.”

While the lock has not returned to team training yet, he is much better and is already doing gym work.


“He monitors his pulse constantly and it is stable,” the Bulls boss said, adding that the lock will see the specialist on April 12.

“If he gets the green light [from the specialist] he will come back into the rugby [squad] system.

“He is working in the gym with Andre Volsteedt [the Bulls’ strength and conditioning coach] and his conditioning is good.

“We just need to ensure everything is in order before taking the risk. He also needs to be comfortable that can be involved in [contact situations like] scrums, line-out and tackling.”



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