TOKYO, Japan, Oct 24 – South Africa’s star winger Cheslin Kolbe has been ruled out of Sunday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against Wales with an ankle injury, forcing the Springboks to replace him with S’Busiso Nkosi.
Kolbe hobbled off after twisting an ankle in South Africa’s 49-3 pool win against Italy and was far from his electric best against Japan in the quarter-finals, where he looked in discomfort again.
Coach Rassie Erasmus said it was “disappointing” not to have the “brilliant” Kolbe available for selection, revealing that he had aggravated the ankle injury during the Japan quarter-final.
However, he said that Nkosi had been close to forcing himself into the side and would “slot right in”.
“I am as excited to see what he can do as I would be if ‘Chessie’ were playing,” said the coach in a statement.
Nkosi has made two appearances in the tournament, against Namibia and Canada, when he scored a try from the left wing.
For the Wales match, he will replace Kolbe on the right, with flyer Makazole Mapimpi, who is the tournament’s joint top try-scorer with five so far, on the other wing.
Erasmus again put six forwards on the bench, suggesting the Springboks will continue their strategy of dragging opposition teams into an arm-wrestle up front.
South Africa produced a performance of overwhelming forward dominance against Japan, outplaying the hosts in the set-piece and driving them back powerfully in defence for their 26-3 win.
– ‘Challenge just got tougher’ –
The Springboks enjoy an unbeaten record against Wales in World Cup matches but they have always been cliffhangers.
They beat the Welsh 17-16 in a pool match in 2011 and then edged a quarter-final in 2015, running out 23-19 winners.
In the 2015 match, it was Fourie du Preez who broke Welsh hearts with a 75th-minute try after Wales had led going into the final 10 minutes.
Fly-half Handre Pollard kicked five penalties and a drop-goal for the Boks, while Dan Biggar, also the current number 10 for Wales, scored 14 points and produced a try assist for Gareth Davies.
The Springboks have won 28 of the 35 games the two sides have played since their inaugural match in 1906, Wales winning just six, with one draw.
But Wales have had the better of recent encounters, winning five of the last six.
Wales coach Warren Gatland was scheduled to name his team on Friday.
“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,” he added, praising a “really good sequence of results” from Wales, current Six Nations champions.
South Africa (15-1):
Willie Le Roux; S’Busiso Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt); Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn