British & Irish Lions prop Mako Vunipola says he doesn’t feel the incident involving Cheslin Kolbe in the first Test against the Springboks was reckless but has apologised for his conduct.
After coming off the bench in the second half of the first Test in Cape Town, Vunipola pulled Kolbe up when the Springbok wing landed hard after being taken out in the air.
Referee Nic Berry opted not to give a penalty to the Springboks, which became one of the calls which was heavily scrutinised after the game.
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus posted a tweet on Monday morning about the incident, with a warning not to “move or touch” any injured players.
Vunipola subsequently apologised if his conduct was seen as being against the sprit of the game.
“I saw he had gone down and I was trying to get the ball in. It was a heat-of-the-moment thing and I reacted how I would normally do,” Vunipola said.
“I wasn’t that reckless and he continued to play in the game. If he was really hurt, then that would have been reckless, but I felt the collision wasn’t that bad.
“I guess we were behind at the time and we wanted to get a bit of tempo in the game and I wanted to get the ball off him.
“If I did err, I do apologise.”
The 30-year-old loosehead was originally left out of the Lions match-day 23 for the first Test, but was called up to the bench when starting loosehead prop Wyn Jones had to withdraw from the match due to injury.
As it happened, Vunipola had an excellent impact in nullifying the vaunted Springbok Bomb Squad and getting the better of opposite number Frans Malherbe in the scrum.
According to the Guardian, Vunipola is now in line to start for the Lions in the decisive second Test against the Springboks on Saturday.