South African rugby suffered a sudden loss on Friday after it emerged former Springbok Pedrie Wannenburg died in a tragic car accident at the age of 41.
The ex-Ulster and Bulls flanker was the victim of a car crash in Texas sparked by a teenager who was reportedly on the run from police. Three other members of Wannenburg’s family were also in the vehicle, with his nine-year-old son, Francois, taken to hospital for surgery. His wife and daughter were also in the car but did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, said a deputy had attempted to pull over a 16-year-old, only for the car to speed off, resulting in a high-speed chase. It’s understood Wannenburg’s car was near an intersection when the 16-year-old driver sped into the back of his vehicle.
Wannenburg and his son were both airlifted to hospital, but the former Barbarians back-rower succumbed to his injuries. His wife, Evette, and daughter, Isabelle, were also in the car but escaped serious injury.
Former Junior Springboks coach Loffie Elof shared his condolences on social media, writing: “I am shattered.. have no words. Just heard that my friend Pedrie Wannenburg passed away in a car accident. His family was in the car with him. Devastating news RIP wonderful man.”
Wannenburg once played 99 consecutive matches for the Pretoria-based Bulls between 2002 and 2010, helping the club win three Super Rugby titles before he departed for Belfast in 2010. He played a major role in Ulster’s run to the 2012 Heineken Cup final before departing for France later that year.
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Able to shine at flanker or No. 8, Wannenburg represented Castres and Oyonnax in the Top 14 before departing for the United States, where he played for the Denver Stampede and the Austin Elite. At the time of his death, the 20-times capped former Springbok was living in Austin and coached local outfit the West Houston Lions.
Former Ulster team-mate Dan Tuohy said his old comrade “contributed an awful lot to the team” during his short stint in Northern Ireland. “It’s difficult to imagine really,” added Tuohy. “It’s such a sudden death it’s difficult to comprehend to be honest and I know he’ll be sorely missed. He was an honest grafter of a player. He was just a great guy to be around, a warm character always with a smile on his face.”
Following his playing career, Wannenburg had moved into sales and worked as a national representative for a refrigeration company.