Former Springboks flanker Pedrie Wannenburg was killed during a high-speed car chase in Texas on the weekend, while his 8-year-old son remains in stable condition in hospital.
Wannenburg and his family were caught unawares when a 16-year-old driver, who has since been charged with felony murder, crashed into them while being chased by police in Houston.
The Bulls legend, who was 41, and his son Francois were flown via helicopter to hospital but Wannenburg later succumbed to his injuries. His wife and 10-year-old daughter did not sustain serious injuries.
Harris County sheriff Ed Gonzalez confirmed on Twitter on Saturday that the 16-year-old driver had been charged: “The suspect. 16 yrs of age, has been charged with felony murder, Reckless Aggravated Assault-Serious Bodily Injury, and 3X Aggravated Assault-Bodily Injury [sic].”
Young Francois was upgraded from critical to stable on Sunday, according to his uncle Callie, who told local newspaper Rapport: “Francois is doing well, he is off the oxygen machine. He is stable and we’re very thankful.”
Wannenburg played for the Boks between 2002 and 2007, appearing 20 times in green and gold, and was a key component in former coach Jake White’s team of the day. His most famous moment came in 2006, when he scored a match-winning try against the All Blacks.
White, who is now coaching the Bulls, told the media on the weekend: “I knew Pedrie well. I first coached him at Under-21 level with the Junior Boks.
“Later that year he summarily started playing Test rugby as well under Rudolf (Straeuli). He was a fine player. It’s such a sad turn of events.
“He — to all intents and purposes — went on his own to start his new life in the USA and did well. But my sympathies are really with his family.”
Aside from the Bulls, where he racked up an incredible 99 starts in a row and was the first Bulls player to reach 100 caps for the franchise, Wannenburg also played for Ulster, Oyonnax, and Castres in Europe.
Wannenburg was one of the first South African stars to move to the USA to play in the now-defunct PRO Rugby competition, with the Denver Stampede. After that he played for the Austin Elite, and then went into coaching in Houston, where he coached the West Houston Lions.
SA Rugby released a statement, saying: “Pedrie will be remembered as one of the first real versatile loose forwards who could play in any position in the back-row, and even though he played in only 20 Tests, his record in the colours of the Bulls, during a period where they dominated on all levels, is nearly unmatched.
“Pedrie was a fun-loving and hard-working man and someone who gave all he had on the pitch, but afterwards always had a smile on his face. He represented his country with aplomb — who will ever forget the try he scored in the narrow victory over the All Blacks in Rustenburg in 2006?
“To lose someone at the cusp of his life after a long and storied rugby career is extremely sad. Our thoughts are with his wife, Evette, children, Isabelle and Francois, as well as his parents and other family members, loved ones and friends during this very difficult time.”