By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Jzaun Dreyer is not defined by the catastrophic rugby injury that left him paralysed in his teenage years, but by the unstoppable drive to turn the corner and live a rich and remarkable life
laying on the left wing for President High School’s first 15 against Hoërskool Brandwag on 15 March 2006, Jzaun Dreyer set off on a trademark run when he was hit in a double tackle. The 16-year-old suffered a broken neck and was left a C5/6 incomplete quadriplegic.
For an active teenager, there’s no greater heartbreak and challenge than to cope with such a debilitating injury. It requires a second drastic change, a mental shift, and Dreyer’s turning point came extra-ordinarily quickly.
“It was absolutely devastating, but being born into a military family, I’ve always had a no-nonsense outlook on life and that’s what helped me,” says the Centurion-based 34-year-old.
“I was still in the ICU [at Netcare Union Hospital in Alberton] and either out of anger or being tired of not knowing what the road ahead was going to be like, I asked the doctor to give it to me straight and from there my mindset was, ‘if this is how it’s going to be, let me do the best I possibly can’.
With that steely resolve and the support of his family, he went the extra mile during and after his six months at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park.
“I refused to go to a ‘special’ school and returned to my old school that was in no way wheelchair-friendly. Friends and teachers carried me up three floors to make sure I attended my classes and I finished matric with a bachelor’s degree,” Dreyer says.
He decided to go into the financial industry and completed his NQF 5, NQF 6 and Regulatory exams through FNB, where he became a manager at the age of 21. He then had a short stint at African Bank before joining OUTsurance in 2016 and has cemented himself as one of the company’s best sales advisors.
I asked the doctor to give it to me straight and from there my
mindset was, ‘if this is how it’ s going to be, let me do the best
I possibly can’.
He also owns his own business. “I’m very blessed to be a business owner. During lockdown, my wife came up with a business model where we go to clients’ premises offering full valets as well as wash-and-go services. It took off like a wildfire as people were so scared to go to car washes because of the number of people who wash a single vehicle adding to a higher risk of infection.”
As a petrolhead, he was never going to sit idle on the side lines, even if it meant doing the almost impossible for someone with his high level of injury.
“To get my Motorsport SA licence, I had to lift myself out of my wheelchair and into an entirely-enclosed race car, so almost to a standing position over a roll cage and through the window area of the door and buckle myself up with a five-point harness,” Dreyer explains.
“Then I had to unbuckle myself and by some means or miracle lift myself out of the car, drop onto a piece of cardboard on the floor and shimmy away in a set time to show I could escape in case of the car catching fire and I did it on the first try.”
Heading up his own race team, JD Racing SA (which is also the name of his mobile detailing and carwash business), and using a hand-control driving aid, he’s been tearing up tracks in and around Gauteng in the Vilaca Racing Series since 2018.
“Racing is the greatest thrill … it’s fear, excitement and adrenaline rolled into one. My ‘weapon’ of choice is my 2005 Subaru Impreza, which is fully set up for track racing. I also have a 2007 Subaru Impreza WRX and a 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI. I’ve owned and been in some cool cars over the years – Mustangs, Ferraris, Skylines, Supras, you name it!”
He’s still a big rugby lover and represented the Leopards in the National Wheelchair Rugby Tournament, while he also made a name for himself as a comedian and featured on Comedy Central.
However, his biggest love is his wife, Anzelle.
“Anzelle’s my source of strength, my best friend and my biggest supporter. She’s hard-working and dedicated and, although I’m self-sufficient, she finds a way to make the wheelchair factor disappear. She motivates me to do better and when days are challenging, she picks me up,” Dreyer says.
He mentions that the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund has played an invaluable role through their provision of wheelchairs and ongoing support.
“Being independent is the most important goal for any person with a disability. That’s what the Players’ Fund has given me. Having the mind and willpower will only get you so far; having the tools will enable you to finish the job, so I’m extremely grateful to the Players’ Fund,” he concludes.