All Blacks five-eights Beauden Barrett was relieved to be able to move his fingers and toes as he lay on the ground at Mbombela Stadium after a horrific mid-air collision in the first Test of the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship of Saturday.
Springbok winger Kurt-Lee Arendse overthrew Barrett in an illegal charge that resulted in a four-week ban in the All Blacks 10-26 loss.
Barrett told All Blacks TV he immediately feared the worst from the collision.
After landing on the ground, All Blacks support staff rushed to join him.
“I don’t remember who told me to stay still.
“It wasn’t until Doc came in and asked me, ‘Could I move my fingers and toes?’
“I was relieved that I passed all those tests and I finally sat down and was able to walk away.
“There was a scary time there for about a minute when you think about the worst.
“It’s pretty scary when you back up and land on your head and shoulders.
“It’s part of the game and every time we go up for the high ball we have to be brave,” he said.
The ball hunters sometimes made errors in judgement.
“They intend to get up but find themselves falling on the person, which happened over the weekend.
“As an escort, the players in front of me do their best to protect me, but that’s not always the case.”
Barrett said the collisions and high ball contests were not unexpected when playing in South Africa. In these 50-50 situations, the South African players would be looking to make a contest, and it was up to the All Blacks to continue to compete.
“Our escorts need to do a job to legally prevent this fighter from executing a good line and allowing this mid-air collision.”
Barrett had already suffered in such a collision against France in 2018 in Wellington. On this occasion, he landed on his shoulder and escaped serious injury.
“It’s a high-speed, split-second thing that can be quite dangerous.
“I was lucky on that occasion and I was lucky on the weekend.”
He hoped his luck could hold in the future as it was a tactic South Africa would continue to employ.
“It’s a strength of South Africa because they cause carnage in the air and they like to play with spills,” he said.
The 105 Test veteran has been able to train with the team and is expected to be available for the second Test in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Barrett said there was no shortage of motivation at the All Blacks.
“We believe in what we are doing and where we are going. Winning is a habit, but losing can be too.
“We just have to remember how well we can do the simple things, why we’re playing the game and what got us here in the first place,” he said.
It was about not over complicating things, cutting out outside noise and playing rugby.