Rassie Erasmus says it is disappointing to lose wing Cheslin Kolbe to injury for Sunday’s World Cup semi-final against Wales in Yokohama.
The Springbok team announced on Thursday showed only one change, with Sbu Nkosi starting at wing in place of Kolbe, who suffered an ankle injury against Japan in the quarter-final.
It is unclear who long Kolbe will be sidelined, but Erasmus says his absence comes as a big blow for the team.
‘It’s disappointing not to have Cheslin available as he has been brilliant for us since we first called him up last year,’ the Bok coach said.
However, Erasmus is confident that Nkosi was is more than ready to step up and fill the void against Wales in the semi-final.
‘We really rate Sbu and he will slot straight in. I am as excited to see what he can do as I would be if Chessie [Kolbe] were playing. Sbu has been very close to selection as it is.’
Nkosi has made two appearances in the tournament – against Namibia and Canada – on the left wing.
His injury-enforced inclusion is the only change to the 23 that had been entrusted to ensure second place in the pool (against Italy) and to secure a semi-final place (against Japan).
‘We’ve been fortunate to have been able to be pretty consistent in selection and we’ve built some nice momentum,’ said Erasmus. ‘But the challenge just got a lot tougher on Sunday.
‘Wales are the reigning Six Nations champions – as well as Grand Slam winners – and apart from three defeats in their Rugby World Cup warm-ups have put together a really good sequence of results.
‘But we’ve also found some rhythm and we’ll be ready for the challenge.’
The Springbok 23 includes 10 players who appeared in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final victory over Wales four years ago in England (23-19), and nine who are making a second semi-final appearance after losing to eventual champions New Zealand, four years ago.
‘We have been working hard for 18 months to put ourselves in a position to win the Rugby World Cup and that opportunity is now just 80 minutes away,’ said Erasmus.
‘These players have worked with unbelievable energy to get Springbok rugby back into this position and I know they will leave nothing out on the field on Sunday.
‘We can feel the excitement coming from back home in South Africa and how much success will mean to our country. We know we’re playing for South Africa; that this is bigger than an 80-minute game of rugby.’
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