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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

WATCH: I looked Sbu Nkosi in the eyes, I could see he was hurting, says Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone

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Cape Town – Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone has commended wing Sbu Nkosi for asking for help with his mental health, and that the Springbok speedster is in a “safe space” with his family in Mpumalanga at the moment.

A dramatic few days saw the news come out that Nkosi had gone missing, which the Bulls tried to report to the police, although they didn’t receive much assistance.

That is when one of the franchise’s commercial partners, SSG Security, stepped in to help locate the 26-year-old, and on Monday, Rathbone found Nkosi at his stepfather’s house in eMalahleni (formerly Witbank) and expressed his relief during a press conference at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday.

“If you look into the eyes of anyone who is experiencing hurt, and who are at a low point in their lives, it is heartbreaking. The emotion was firstly just to have found him… We live in a South Africa where rugby players who have not been found, or been found in much worse conditions,” Rathbone said.

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“It’s a combination of three weeks of worry, and then to see, here is a young man sitting with a lot of hurt, who needs to be helped…

“I looked a man in the eyes yesterday, that I could see he was hurting. And that’s my reality.

“The tip-offs (from the public) actually made us feel a bit more sort of confident that we would find him alive. The realities of living in South Africa, of what we’ve seen in the past with other rugby players, is a concern, and that is why it was an unbelievable relief yesterday to see him alive and well.

“Obviously we are not trained for scenarios like this. Yes, I’m sure we made mistakes along the way, but I think what we need to keep in mind through all of this is that there’s a player’s reputation that needed to be managed as well.

“And then obviously, his safety is also a concern. It’s finding the balance between those two elements. The steps that we took in terms of visiting all his known residences, contacting family members, myself phoning him basically every day on all the known numbers that we’ve got led us to the police unfortunately – where help wasn’t really forthcoming.

“And then, luckily for us, our partners SSG stepped in, and really gave this thing momentum. And the media, you guys as well, and 48 hours later, we were able to find him.”

Rathbone insisted that there was no timeline on when Nkosi would be back on a rugby field, and that it was now all about assisting him as a human being, and not a rugby player.

“Sbu is still with his parents. At this time, it’s difficult to put a timeline on it. We need to give him his space to get back to full health. We are arranging support for the time that he is ready to get that support. As I said to him yesterday as well: our goal is to get him back on a rugby field and feeling like a champion again,” the Bulls boss said.

“And even if that means it’s not at the Bulls, and he needs to have a new start, then that’s fine. But it’s our job to get him ready.

“Like with any relationship with you or your family, there is always a responsibility from both parties to basically either pick it up, or someone to say ‘Listen, I’m struggling with something’.

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“Us as men are very good at it, to hide stuff away and make as if everything is fine. That’s obviously a flaw of us, and that’s why I commend Sbu for saying ‘Listen, I’m not okay’.

“Sbu does have a complicated family environment, which I really don’t want to comment on any further – I think that’s his privilege.

“But any mental health issue or problem that you have, you have to want to be helped. I got the sense that Sbu really wants to get back on his feet and be helped.

“At this stage, his dad is assisting him, and that’s his safe space – to be with his dad and to just be a son to a father for a bit, and not be Sbu Nkosi the rugby player.

“That’s playing a healing element in his life, so we must respect that. But obviously going forward, professional help will be needed as well.

“He is an employee of the company, and being absent without leave for three weeks does have consequences.

“But again, at this stage, we are really missing the point if our concern is whether he is going to have a contract at the Bulls or not.

“We’ve got a player that’s struggling with mental health issues, and going through a really rough patch. And that should be our concern: How do we get him on his feet again, so that he can stand up and become the superstar rugby player that we all know he is?”

@ashfakmohamed

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