TOKYO (AFP) – South Africa suffered a major setback ahead of Sunday’s World Cup semi-final against Wales with dangerman Cheslin Kolbe ruled out through injury, forcing the Springboks to replace him on the wing with S’Bu Nkosi.
Kolbe hobbled off after twisting an ankle in the 49-3 pool win against Italy and was in discomfort again in the quarter-finals, when South Africa broke the hearts of host nation Japan.
“It’s a big blow because everybody knows his quality and the contribution he makes,” South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus said yesterday.
“But if you look at the previous game, his ankle definitely had an influence on his performance. We don’t think a 70 per cent Cheslin is better than a 100 per cent S’Bu.”
While South Africa, whose only win over Wales in their last six meetings came in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals, will miss Kolbe’s explosiveness, Erasmus was quick to point out that Nkosi was no slouch, with eight tries in 10 Tests to his name.
“Cheslin’s top-end speed and agility – he’s one of the best in the world,” he said.
“But we have full confidence in S’Bu and he certainly deserves his chance.”
Nkosi, set to make his third appearance of the World Cup, is South Africa’s only change and joins Makazole Mapimpi, the tournament’s joint top try-scorer with five tries, on the other wing.
“Having Makazole in the form he’s in is fantastic,” said Erasmus, who has made the Boks a force again since taking over in 2018.
“Obviously in the last four games Wales are 4-0 (on us). I don’t know who’s the favourites, but we fully believe we can beat them.”
Erasmus refused to be drawn into mind games, however, insisting both sides would feel the pressure.