Jonah Lomu, considered the first true global rugby superstar, was forced to take an unexpected break from the game on this day in rugby history in 1997 due to a rare but serious kidney disorder nephrotic syndrome.
The diagnosis did not put his life in danger but his future in professional rugby was in doubt.
“I feel very positive about the treatment,” Lomu said about the diagnosis, treatment and time off. “I’ve got the best doctors on the case and I never lie down and let anything trample over me. This is just a hiccup.”
“I’ve had a few knocks in my career, this is another one, it is a big one and it is a chance that I have to take. I’d rather miss out six months than miss out on a whole lifetime of living. I’ve had to sit down and have a really good think about it with my wife Tania, but it’s something that I have to deal with.”
Lomu needed 6 months of chemotherapy and missed the 1997 Tri Nations but was back by the time the New Zealand All Blacks made their northern hemisphere tour at the end of the year.
And by 1999 he was back at full strength and the key to the All Blacks Tri Nations and Rugby World Cup, where he scored 8 tries, campaigns.
The kidney problem was never 100% cured and by 2003 he was on dialysis and eventually had a kidney transplant in 2004 before retiring from rugby in 2007.
During his career, Lomu earned sixty-three caps as an All Black after debuting in 1994. He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame on 9 October 2007 and the IRB Hall of Fame on 24 October 2011.
1935 – Eric Ashton, English rugby league footballer (d. 2008)
2005 – Chalkie White, English rugby union coach (b. 1929)