The South African triathlete who nearly lost his leg in a chainsaw attack while on a training ride in Durban has woken to an outpouring of international support after an operation to save his leg.

Mhlengeni Gwala, who has competed on the international circuit, has also been able to wiggle his toes.

"It's bad that I can't compete," he was quoted on website netwerk24.com. "The doctor said it will take six months to recover.

"But I am so thankful for the support I have received," Gwala said.

Advertisement

More than R590,000 ($62,500) has been raised for Gwala by this morning through a crowdfunding campaign on the BackABuddy wesbite, titled "Get Mhlengeni back on his bike".

The story of his attack has been reported by the BBC, CNN and The Washington Post.

Gwala was training near the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the early hours of Tuesday morning (NZT) when he was approached by three armed men.

His athletic sponsor, Sue de la Porte, said Gwala was then dragged into the surrounding bushes by the men who then attempted to saw the 26-year-old's leg off.

"He tried offering them his cellphone and money, but they pinned him down and tried to saw off his leg," said De la Porte.

Triathlete Henry Schoeman broke the news on Twitter with a Tweet that read: "A friend of mine, cycling in the Durban area was robbed by three people this morning, Then they attempted to saw off both legs with a chainsaw. Blade too blunt and only got half way through one and started on the other. Absolutely disgusting! How safe are we on SA roads?"

KwaZulu-Natal police are investigating.

"A case of attempted murder was opened at Umbilo police station after [he] was approached by three suspects, who dragged him into the bush at Umbilo area," Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane said on Wednesday.

He said security guards came to Gwala's rescue and he was taken to hospital.