Sbu Nkosi marked his return to rugby with a try in the United Rugby Championship (URC) on Saturday in a huge boost to Vodacom Bulls’ Heineken Champions Cup knockout stage hopes.
The 27-year-old’s score against DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld was a heart-warming moment after he had spent a period away from the game due to mental health reasons.
Prolific wing Nkosi, a 16-time South Africa international, was a massive addition to Vodacom Bulls’ squad after making the switch from Cell C Sharks last summer, but the Pretoria-based outfit were fully understanding of his situation.
He therefore was absent for the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage as Vodacom Bulls made their bow in the tournament, earning a Round of 16 trip to five-time champions Stade Toulousain on April 2.
But after his impressive return at the weekend, Nkosi is set to be back for that encounter, which will see him make his Heineken Champions Cup debut.
“It took some time, but I am happy that I am back where I belong and that would have never been possible without the love and kindness I have received,” Nkosi said.
“The overflow of support allowed me to find comfort and confidence in that I am no lesser human being for acknowledging and accepting that I am not okay.
How great is it to see Sbu Nkosi back on the pitch and scoring for @BlueBullsRugby 🙌
Never underestimate the importance of mental health 👊
Can't wait to see him in #HeinekenChampionsCup action…
🎥 @URCOfficial pic.twitter.com/dbfpH99nD4
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) February 22, 2023
“The support I received allowed me to find my feet again. The only thing I can do now is to pay it forward, so that others can be empowered to know that the sun will rise again, even when it does not look like it.
“Rugby has been everything to me but for a while, because of life, I had lost that connection and needed to take time away so that I can find my centre again and rezone.
“Not many people get this opportunity and that is not lost on me. I come back committed and willing to put in the yards as my way of paying back all the support I received.”
Meanwhile, Vodacom Bulls director of rugby Jake White was full of praise for Noksi after his try-scoring comeback against DHL Stormers.
“Sometimes we take it for granted that a young boy can go through a difficult time — I thought he played well,” he said.
“His work rate was good, he ran hard, he didn’t look like he has been out of rugby for three months. I am really proud he can play like that. He will get better now he has got a taste of it again.
“He basically broke every tackle when he carried the ball, and he looked like a Springbok again. It is always nice when you have that kind of player in your squad.”