Former All Blacks star Duncan Robertson has revealed a hit and run driver saved his life.
The 72-year-old was hit by a car while pushing his wheelie rubbish bin to a collection point on a rural Queenstown road on the night of July 14.
The driver of the car fled the scene leaving Robertson unconscious, bleeding, and with smashed ribs and a shoulder injury.
In his first interview since the near-death experience, the veteran of 30 matches for the All Blacks in the 1970s, has revealed an unlikely positive outcome from the hit and run, with doctors diagnosing a heart problem which required surgery.
When asked what his message was to the driver of the car, Robertson told the Herald on Sunday: "Being sarcastic, I would probably ring them and thank them. Because I could have been dead in six months or a year's time . . .
"Luckily for me they [doctors] found a murmur in the heart.
"I have had it for a long time, possibly even from birth. They put a [valve] in while I was in there. They picked it up and said, 'We would advise you . . . rather than going through the whole process when it becomes a problem, we will do it now'."
Robertson – an All Black between 1974 and 1977 – believed he was lucky to be alive after being struck by the car and left "lying in the middle of a busy road".
He was standing on a gravel patch at the side of the road when he was struck, with the impact shunting him 4m down the road.
"I just saw the lights of the car as I turned over the right of my shoulder. I just stopped where I was and then bang," he said.
Martin Devlin: Will this 23 sweep all before us in Japan?
'I haven't spoken to ABs selectors': SBW opens up on World Cup chances
Dynamic duo: Savea and Cane to start in Bledisloe clash
"That is the last thing I remember . . . then I woke up in the back of the ambulance."
He was airlifted to Christchurch Hospital and admitted to its neurosurgical unit due to his head injuries.
"My head was bleeding. I was knocked unconscious and that was what they were worried about," Robertson said.
"The helicopter people and the Christchurch Hospital people were absolutely brilliant."
Robertson was also hugely thankful to a mother and her young daughter who came to his aid as he lay in the middle of the road.
"I have thanked them very much," he said.
"They were going to the supermarket for groceries when the wee girl said, 'There is something on the road Mum'. It all started from there.
"They were excellent. If a car had of come up the other way they would never have seen me . . . they would have run right over me. I owe them more than just a debt of gratitude."
Robertson said he hadn't heard anything further from the police since he was in hospital. The only description he could provide of the vehicle that hit him was that it was a "small car".
There were no updates from police last week into their investigation.
Robertson was hit at about 7.45pm. He said he had no idea how fast the car was travelling when it hit him, but the speed limit in the area was 80km/h.
"They probably panicked," he said.
"We are into forgiving everyone now aren't we, no matter what they do. There is no point holding a grudge.
"There is nothing that I can do. It's like a game of football that you have lost. There is no point beating yourself up about it; you just have to learn."
He added: "It wasn't good, but I have my feet on the ground and are standing upright . . . that is the main thing.
"I am back driving but will have a bit of pain in my ribs for some time to come. But I am better off than lots of people, that is for sure."
Robertson said the nature of his injuries meant he wasn't able to travel to the Wairarapa last week to attend the funeral of former All Blacks captain, coach and manager Sir Brian Lochore.
Lochore, who died from cancer last Saturday, was farewelled by thousands on Thursday.
"I was really disappointed that I wasn't able to go to BJ's funeral," he said.
"I don't think I would have handled it very well with all the travel. He was one of the best, if not the best . . . he should have been Governor-General of New Zealand, if not Prime Minister. He is held in high regard and was a tremendous guy."