JOHANNESBURG — There was a flurry of substitutions in the 35th minute of the South Africa-Australia Test match, coming at a time when tactical substitutions are unlikely. As it turns out, Bongi Mbonambi went off because he was (surprisingly) a spent force, while Makazole Mapimpi had the more believable knee injury. Now that the doctor has done his usual Sunday audit of the players, Mapimpi’s injury has been deemed severe enough to require him to return home. It’s unnecessary (and a bit late) to call for a replacement with the amount of cover coach Rassie Erasmus has brought on tour as the squad prepares for Saturday’s clash against New Zealand in Wellington. New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has a few injury issues of his own as he is without centre Ngani Lamaupi and lock Brodie Retallick for the match. He has more than enough depth to fill the gaps, although Retallick has been a powerful force in the All Black team this season and the Boks will be relieved that he won’t be playing. – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby
Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi has returned to South Africa after he sustained a knee injury in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against the Wallabies in Brisbane. No replacement will be added to the South African squad.
Mapimpi was withdrawn from action just before halftime at the Suncorp Stadium on Saturday and he was replaced by Cheslin Kolbe, who earned his debut Test cap for the Springboks.
The injured player arrives in South Africa on Tuesday and will undergo a specialist review of his injured right knee. Apart from Mapimpi, there are no other Springbok injury concerns.
“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,” explained Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, at the Springboks’ arrival media conference.
The injury withdrawal of Mapimpi has however forced Erasmus to relook at his back-three options for Saturday’s clash with the world’s top-ranked team.
“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,” explained Erasmus. “We will try and pick the most experienced side for this match, with the least amount of changes.”
Meanwhile, the Springboks kicked off their week’s preparations on Monday with a lively late afternoon training at Porirua Park, their training base for rest of the week.
Tuesday is another full training day, followed by a non-training day on Wednesday while Erasmus will announce his Springbok match-23 at lunchtime on Thursday.