Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lukhanyo Am back for Boks in place of injured Makazole Mapimpi

Am, who suffered a knee injury in the Boks' warm-up match against Argentina in Buenos Aires, has now been called up as replacement.

The unfortunate tournament ending injury suffered by Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi during their 49-18 win over Tonga in Marseille on Sunday night has opened the door for the Boks to bring in maverick centre Lukhanyo Am.

Mapimpi was involved in a head clash with a Tongan defender during the game and went off in the first half for an HIA and didn’t return, with coach Jacques Nienaber admitting after the match that he had suffered a cheekbone fracture but they didn’t know the severity.

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SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus then confirmed the disappointing news on Monday that Mapimpi’s World Cup was officially over.

“We are sad for Mapimpi. He fractured his eye socket and cheek bone, so he’ll be out for four to six weeks. We’ll miss him as a player and what he brings to the team off the field. But if we get to the final, we’ll fly him and Malcolm Marx back,” said Erasmus.

Am, who suffered a knee injury in the Boks warm-up match against Argentina in Buenos Aires, has now been called up as replacement.

Interesting decision

It is an interesting decision from the Boks as they had a few possible options to consider, especially considering that their outside back stocks were well covered, but it seems that the massive impact of Am clearly outweighed any other replacement.

After hooker Malcolm Marx was ruled out of the World Cup a few weeks ago, Handre Pollard was brought in as the replacement leaving them a bit short at hooker.

Bongi Mbonambi the only specialist No 2 in the squad, with hooker turned flank Deon Fourie and loose forward Marco van Staden providing back-up for him.

So Joseph Dweba should definitely have been a possible option to call-up, but a brilliant man-of-the-match performance from Fourie against Tonga in his first international start at hooker may have played a deciding role in tipping the scale in Am’s favour.

Am to join squad

Am will join the Bok squad in Toulon this week, having returned to training after his rehabilitation from a knee injury suffered in the 24-13 victory win over Argentina in Buenos Aires on 5 August.

The 29-year-old centre missed out on squad selection because of the injury having appeared in the first four matches of the season as he recovered from a knee injury suffered in 2022.

The Boks still have to wait for the final pool match between Ireland and Scotland this weekend to confirm their place in the quarterfinals, but it would take a highly unlikely result to knock them out of the tournament.