Rugby great's 10-month-old son killed in backyard drowning tragedy

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Jannie du Plessis, pictured here with his son and wife.
Jannie du Plessis' 10-month-old son drowned in their backyard swimming pool. Image: Getty/Twitter

South African rugby star Jannie du Plessis has been rocked by the tragic drowning death of his 10-month old son.

The former Springboks player was reportedly celebrating his 39th birthday on Wednesday when the tragedy occurred.

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The incident happened at Du Plessis' home in the mining town of Krugersdorp, near Johannesburg, and has been confirmed by local police and Du Plessis' provincial side, the Lions.

"I can confirm that this tragedy took place. We are all devastated," Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli told Sport24.

Jannie du Plessis, pictured here with teammates after a Springboks victory over the Wallabies in 2014.
Jannie du Plessis with teammates Cobus Reinach and JP Pietersen after a Springboks victory over the Wallabies in 2014. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“As I’m sure everyone can understand, Jannie and his family now need to be left alone to process this tragedy.

“We offer our full support to him and kindly request everyone to keep them in their thoughts and prayers.”

Local police captain Raymond Sebonyane said: “Police were called to a scene of drowning whereby a 10-month-old baby boy fell in the swimming pool.

“The police appeal to parents or guardians of younger children to be more careful where children are playing closer to any hazard.

“Those with swimming pools should fence them off or cover them with safety nets if not being used.”

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Du Plessis played 70 Tests for the Springboks and was part of the squad that lifted the Rugby World Cup in 2007 alongside his brother, hooker Bismarck du Plessis. 

Jannie played his last Test in 2015.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's Test against England at Twickenham, South Africa No.8 Duane Vermeulen said their former teammate and his family were in the thoughts of the players.

"They will be on our minds and all our condolences to Jannie and his family back home," he told reporters on Wednesday. 

"It is a difficult time for them, but we will stand behind them and support them."

Du Plessis, a qualified doctor, and his wife Ronel have two other children - daughters Rosalie and Hele.

Fellow rugby star Toks van der Linde posted a photo of Du Plessis with his son and wife on social media.

“Please pray for Jannie du Plessis and his family," he wrote.

“His son of one year old drowned last night, my heart is broken broken broken. So so sad.”

Former Springboks player Breyton Paulse tweeted: “What a sad day, sending strength to the du Plessis family. Such tragic news.”

Du Plessis’ former club, the Sharks, also sent out their condolences.

“The Sharks extend our deepest condolences to Jannie, Ronel and the entire du Plessis family on the tragic loss of his young son," they said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.”

with AAP

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