As silly season continues, it’s time to look back into the archives of rugby’s great moments. Today it’s the jaw-dropping moment during the 2009 Lions Tour’s second test in Pretoria with the scores tied at 25-25, when Ireland’s O’Gara – having been on for a matter of minutes and having already oafed-up for a springbok try – hears strange voices in his head. They tell him that a kick to touch for the draw might be nice and would give his mates a chance of levelling the series in the next test, but hey man, a punt up in the air, a chase and gather on the half way line, a burst of pace through a paralysed defence and a stunning touchdown under the posts, that sounds like a much MUCH better idea.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it happened. Du Preez recalls what happened next.
“What the hell is happening? I thought. Why am I in the air gathering a ball that should be in the stands? This is hilarious! Then all of a sudden, to top it all, I’m sensing O’Gara is actually trying to take me out in the air. I’m thinking ‘penalty’, I’m thinking ‘series win’, and I’m thinking ‘big cigars and dancing girls’. Then it happened; pain the like of which I’d never experienced, all made the more surreal by trying to balance on feet three metres below me which were staggering all over the place. It was like riding a unicycle. If the unicycle had a head for a seat. And was stuck up your arse. And kept shouting “Oi never touched him” in a really muffled voice. Then I fainted.”
Doctors at the hospital still say it’s the most complicated procedure they’ve ever undertaken. It took a marathon seven-hour operation to free the Irish fly-half’s head from the rear cavity of Du Preez involving an oxygen tube, three gallons of KY Jelly, a pulley system and eighty stitches. The senior surgeon insisted that the incident was a one in 240 million chance that normally would end in severe head or neck injury for the unlucky person who felt the full force of an arse at that velocity.
“The precise speed and angle of descent in this incident allowed the sphincter to close again around the head so fast that no tearing occurred. It appears that O’Gara had managed to get himself in exactly the worst place he could possibly be at that moment in time, yet ironically, it was also the best place. Riddle me that, batman!”