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Rugby should embrace Sbu Nkosi matter to elevate importance of mental health support, say MyPlayers

Cape Town — The South African rugby players organisation, MyPlayers, say they are “providing all the necessary support” to Sbu Nkosi after the Bulls wing was found on Monday, having been missing for three weeks.

And while MyPlayers have not stated the type of support that they will provide to Nkosi, they feel that the rugby fraternity “should embrace this as an opportunity to do introspection, learn, grow, and elevate the importance of mental health support in our environment”.

Nkosi was last seen on Friday November 11 at Loftus Versfeld, but did not arrive for training the following Monday.

Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone said during a press conference on Tuesday that the lack of assistance from the police — after numerous attempts to try to reach the Springbok wing were fruitless — led the management to approach their commercial partners, security company SSG, for help.

The media and public also raised awareness of the situation, which led to a few tip-offs, and Nkosi was eventually located at his stepfather’s house in eMalahleni (formerly Witbank) in Mpumalanga on Monday afternoon.

Rathbone said he could see the “hurt” in Nkosi’s eyes, and that the Bulls would help him to recover, even if the player wanted to leave Loftus Versfeld and join another team as part of the process.

The Bulls boss said he had spoken to MyPlayers counterpart Eugene Henning on Monday night, and said that the situation is a “wake-up call” for everybody involved in professional sport.

“I had a long conversation with MyPlayers CEO Eugene Henning last night around exactly that: how do we ramp up what we’re doing currently? They do screenings with players, there are helplines for players … There are all sorts of things in place. But it’s probably just re-looking (at) all of that again, and seeing where we can improve,” Rathbone said.

MyPlayers added in their statement: “As in other industries and occupations, mental-health challenges are also prevalent in the professional rugby industry, and supporting athletes in this regard goes beyond just preparing them mentally to deliver strong performances on the rugby pitch.

“Professional athletes are people, first. The concerns for Sbu’s safety during the past three weeks were a reminder of this.

“However much we wish he did not have to go through this experience, the industry — from players to employers, to representative organisations — should embrace this as an opportunity to do introspection, learn, grow and elevate the importance of mental health support in our environment.

“By working together more closely, we can provide better proactive support to athletes in need of mental care.

“As the players’ organisation, we are providing all the necessary support to Sbu and the Bulls during this time.

“Out of respect for Sbu’s privacy, we will not disclose the nature of our support, but we are grateful to be in a position to be there for him and his employer as we embark on this journey together.

“At this time, MyPlayers will not provide any further comment on the matter.”

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport