Sbu Nkosi: Springboks and Bulls wing opens up on mental health issues after disappearance

David Skippers
Sbu Nkosi Springboks training 2021 - PA.jpg united rugby championship bulls missing

Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi.

Springboks and Bulls flyer Sbu Nkosi has opened up about his recent disappearance, saying he was battling mental health issues due to pressure from playing rugby at an elite level.

The Bulls found the 26-year-old at his father’s house in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, after he had not been seen for three weeks, during which time the Pretoria-based franchise reported him as missing to the South African Police Service.

Security company assisted in finding Nkosi

Bulls chief executive Edgar Rathbone located Nkosi‘s whereabouts after receiving tip-offs and assistance from a security company, who are one of the team’s sponsors.

The player was in a good physical condition and is confident he is on the right track to regaining full fitness.

“I’m a lot better. There’s obviously a lot to speak about that I can’t say out loud, but my condition is improving,” Nkosi told News24.

“It’s just been a whole lot of mental pressure. It’s been building up for a couple of years now, since the Sharks saga, and it’s been a bit of a tough time.”

Nkosi previously played for the Sharks between 2017 and 2022 – before joining the Bulls in May – but also had disciplinary issues at the Durban-based outfit.

“I was just trying to keep myself calm. That’s been a battle,” he added.

“There’s too much to go into: the expectations, the fact that by choosing to take care of myself right now, there are people I’m letting down, and that also hurts me.

“There’s a lot, but I’m at a point where I need to prioritise the person before the rugby player right now.

“I just needed time. I’ve basically been curled up in a ball with my dad, and he’s been managing my mental state daily.”

Nkosi had not reported for duty at the Pretoria-based franchise since November 14, and initial efforts to find him were fruitless.

The Bulls eventually issued a statement on Monday afternoon which revealed that they found Nkosi.

“The Blue Bulls Company and the Bulls family are happy to confirm that contracted player, Sbu Nkosi, has been found safe and sound,” read the statement.

“After lengthy and extensive efforts from the Vodacom Bulls, in collaboration with SSG – who have gone beyond their commercial responsibility – at 14:02 pm on Monday 05 December 2022, Nkosi was located.

“Once it was established that Nkosi was safe, unharmed and in a position to speak, chief executive Edgar Rathbone went into Nkosi’s home (with the permission of the player), spending alone time with him, to understand how best the company can provide him with the support he needs and what that support is.

“As the Bulls family, we are thrilled that Nkosi is safe.

“We wish to extend a vote of thanks to all the members of the public who shared information that contributed to our search. We wish to also express a word of thanks to the international community who also joined the call and efforts in searching for Nkosi.”

Rathbone admitted to being relieved to find Nkosi alive and physically well but said he is “heartsore” that the 2019 Rugby World Cup winner was in a bad mental health state.

“We had a high-level conversation about what the road forward is,” Rathbone said.

Set for a break from rugby

“It’s clear he wants a break from rugby, and the Bulls will grant him that. I told Sbu and his father that, wherever we can help him throughout this process, that’s the reason we went to Emalahleni.

“For me, it was just a relief to see him alive. I’m very heartsore to see him in this state where he’s not happy.

“Because we’ve had a good relationship, I want to make sure he gets on the right path again, even if it’s not at the Bulls.”

READ MORE: United Rugby Championship: Bulls confirm Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi has been missing for three weeks