CAPE TOWN – When it rains, it pours for the Springboks. As if losing to the Wallabies in an often self-inflicted 23-18 defeat in Brisbane wasn’t enough to endure, they have now lost in-form wing Makazole Mapimpi for the big Rugby Championship showdown with the All Blacks in Wellington.
Mapimpi was one of the stand-out Boks at the Suncorp Stadium in a heady opening half-hour. Not only did he score a try – rounding off smartly in the corner from a classy skip pass by Faf de Klerk – but the Sharks flyer got stuck in on defence too, making a couple of strong tackles and contesting the breakdowns.
He was a serious threat on attack when he did get the ball – which wasn’t often enough – and his ability to sniff out tries will be missed at the Westpac Stadium. Mapimpi left the field around the 34th minute with what appeared to be a recurrence of the knee injury that saw him go off early against Argentina in Mendoza as well, with Cheslin Kolbe coming on for his Test debut.
The Bok camp announced on Monday that Mapimpi has gone home and will not be replaced in the squad. “We have a squad of 30 players here in Wellington, and we’re not going to call up a replacement. Makazole flew back today (Monday), and if we call up someone in his place, he will only arrive here on Wednesday and have one training session with us,” coach Rassie Erasmus said on Monday.
“We have Cheslin Kolbe with us, who played a full second half last Saturday on the wing, but we have some other options as well such as Jesse Kriel and even Lukhanyo Am, who has played some rugby out on the wing. We will try and pick the most experienced side for this match, with the least amount of changes.”
Erasmus has decided to not call up a replacement and will now consider one of several backs to play on the wing this weekend. Jesse Kriel and Willie le Roux are options, with Lukhanyo Am possibly set for a recall at outside centre.
Here's some more pics of the Springbok training session earlier today at Porirua Park in Wellington. pic.twitter.com/NMq0ZDzGS0
If Erasmus goes with Le Roux then Damian Willemse can play fullback. Cheslin Kolbe, who played off the bench against the Wallabies is also an option. “We will try and pick the most experienced side for this match with the least amount of changes,” said Erasmus in Wellington on Monday.
Meanwhile, the All Blacks have also been hard hit by injuries and will be without key lock forward Brodie Retallick and centre Ngani Laumape this weekend. Both players picked up the injuries against Argentina in Nelson last weekend.
Patrick Tuipolotu has been recalled to contest for a lock position, while at the back fit-again Sonny Bill Williams is back in the selection frame. Ryan Crotty, Same Cane and Rieko Ioane are also believed to be fit again and in the picture to take on the Boks.
Both teams will be named on Thursday. Saturday’s match kicks off at 9.35am SA time.