Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says Cheslin Kolbe was closely monitored in training this week, but that they did not want to prematurely rush him back to face the All Blacks.
Earlier this year, Kolbe once again emerged as one of the Springboks’ heroes in the third and final Test against the British & Irish Lions, scoring a scintillating and game-defining try.
However, the dynamic wing has only started in the second Test against Argentina during this season’s Rugby Championship, while he has now been ruled out of this Saturday’s rematch against the All Blacks.
In his four Tests against New Zealand, Kolbe has scored two tries, while he set up a crucial try in the 2019 Rugby Championship clash, and was the Boks’ best player when the teams met at the World Cup.
Although the 27-year-old trained with the Boks on Monday and Tuesday this week as he continued his recovery from a leg injury, he was unable to complete the last training session, which dashed his hopes of making a comeback.
Asked for an update on how close Kolbe was to selection this week, Nienaber said there were clear policies in place that made it an easy decision.
“Cheslin got injured on the Friday [when the Boks returned to training after a quarantine period in Australia]. It was during a bit of a game simulation, and it was always going to be a four- to six-week injury period. He went through the rehab process, and as part of all the return-to-play protocols, he was gradually reintroduced to sessions with limited exposure.
“This week we started giving him more exposure, getting more contact and seeing if he was comfortable with it. It’s the way it works for all players coming back from injury, so we can assess how comfortable they are and whether they have the functionality we know they should.
“Unfortunately Cheslin wasn’t ready, but he will continue to train the whole week with us. Once we are confident that he’s fully recovered, then we can reintroduce him to matches.”
Sbu Nkosi will now start his fourth successive Test, and 15th overall, and Nienaber said they were more than comfortable with this.
“Yes, it would have been nice to have Cheslin available for this weekend, but we have full confidence in Sbu. He has been excellent since 2018 when Rassie [Erasmus] and I came back from Munster.
“We gave him his first Test match against England, and he’s always played well.”