WELLINGTON – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus faces a complex selection decision following the injury withdrawal of Makazole Mapimpi ahead of this Saturday's clash against the All Blacks in Wellington.
Mapimpi aggravated a knee injury in last Saturday's loss to the Wallabies and has been forced to fly home, with the Boks opting against calling up a replacement for the team's final tour game.
It leaves the Springboks without a specialist right wing, and facing serious questions over the composition of the back three as they head into a clash against an All Blacks side that is renowned for their accurate aerial game.
Update: Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi will return to South Africa, to undergo further scans on his injured knee. No replacement to be called up, according to Rassie Erasmus.— South African Rugby (@Springboks) September 10, 2018
Toulouse-based utility back Cheslin Kolbe came on to make his Test debut as Mapimpi's replacement last weekend, and he should be a strong candidate to retain that berth on Saturday.
Kolbe has been hailed for the X-factor he could bring to the Bok backline, but it would be a massive ask of the diminutive 24-year-old to possibly line up opposite powerhouse All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo.
Should Erasmus feel that that the Boks need some extra size and height out wide, then he could well opt to start with Lukhanyo Am at outside centre, while shifting robust Jesse Kriel to the wing.
Another option could be to slot Kriel in at fullback, with Willie le Roux moving to the wing, where he has started four previous Tests for the Boks.
Although Erasmus has suggested he would like to see young Damian Willemse receive some game-time at fullback down the line, it's not likely that he would be thrown in the deep end against the peerless All Blacks.
Whatever the case may be, there's sure to be some concern about the stability of the Bok back three for this crucial clash, especially as they get set to face an All Blacks side that uses their kicking and counter-attacking abilities to lethal effect.
The Boks are set to name the team to face the All Blacks at 3am on Thursday (SA time).
African News Agency (ANA)