Boks face front row crisis
INJURY UPDATE: South Africa may be forced to fly some front row reinforcements to Japan.
Coach Rassie Erasmus hinted that Trevor Nyakane’s World Cup campaign may be over before it really started.
The in-form prop suffered an injury in the Springboks’ 13-23 loss to the All Blacks in Yokohama at the weekend.
The Boks’ worst fears were confirmed when Erasmus revealed that Nyakane had suffered what is suspected to be a serious calf injury.
“The only injury is Trevor and we think it is fairly serious,” Erasmus said.
Nyakane, who came on a second-half replacement for Frans Malherbe, limped off in the 76th minute.
The emotion on his face told a story all of its own.
The powerful prop, who many believed deserved to be starting ahead of Frans, had come into the game under an injury cloud after twisting his knee in a warm-up game against Japan.
However, Erasmus said it was the knee, but a calf injury.
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* Meanwhile Cheslin Kolbe handed South Africa a big boost, by confirming he avoided any injury.
The Toulouse wing lit up the Yokohama clash, bamboozling All Blacks defenders with his lightning footwork.
Kolbe made nine runs for 118 metres.
The 25-year-old offered everything but a try on his World Cup debut, before receiving medical attention and appearing in pain late in the engaging tussle.
A simple case of cramp stands as huge relief for a Springboks group now bidding to become the first team to taste defeat in the pool stages and lift the World Cup.
And Kolbe insisted he will be fit and ready to go for South Africa’s second Pool B clash, against Namibia in Toyota on Saturday.
Asked if he had feared a serious injury when grimacing on the turf, Kolbe said: “I wasn’t worried at all. I had a bit of cramp and just a little shock on the ankle, but it’s nothing; nothing to worry about.
“I should be fine. I’ll just manage myself and make sure that I get the best recovery.”
Kolbe’s bullet pace and instinctive shape-shifting could well prove the combination to elevate him above all others at this tournament.
The 25-year-old tore through New Zealand almost at will in the second half, and would have scored a wonder try were it not for a masterful cover tackle from Richie Mo’unga.
Rather than lament the opportunity lost, Kolbe instead pointed to improvements he now wants to make in his own game.
Ireland or Scotland could well face the Springboks in a quarter-final, and neither team will be greatly enamoured by the prospect of Kolbe hitting even greater heights.
Critiquing that chance lost when Mo’unga hauled him back from a fine finish, Kolbe said: “He showed a good pair of wheels. I think I could have gone a bit quicker to his outside and backed myself.
“I’ll just make sure that whenever there’s another opportunity like that I’ll capitalise.
“We had a good 10-minute start in the first half, but then there were some loose balls that didn’t stick. They just capitalised on our mistakes.
“They played a very good kicking game. The World Cup is not going to be about attacking. There were a few balls we just couldn’t handle in the air.
“We know they’re a quality side and you can’t give them any scraps because they’ll punish you. So they really capitalised on that and they got the points.
“We’ll just keep our heads up high and keep on working for the next game and make sure that we don’t drop our heads.
“My first game in a World Cup is a memory I’ll take with me throughout my career. It’s not the result that we wanted. But it’s still a long competition.
“We don’t have to get ahead of ourselves, we’ll just make sure that we focus on the next game.”