Everyone was able to breathe a sigh of relief yesterday once The Blue Bulls confirmed that their missing winger had been located at his step fathers house in Emalahleni. In a country with rampant crime, many feared the worst when it came to light he had been missing for some 3 weeks already, and despite some cruel and uninformed comments on social media, most were happy to hear he was safe.
The player went missing on the 14th of November post training at Loftus, and a missing persons case was opened with the Brooklyn SAPS on the 17th of November. Numerous attempts at establishing contact with Sbu had proven futile and the search began. The Blue Bulls together with their security company SSG proved more effective than the SAPS and managed to trace the player after tip offs had placed him in Mpumalanga.
We were hesitant to comment on the story, pending an official statement from the Bulls as often these stories can be detrimental to investigations and without knowing the full background to his disappearance, erring on the side of caution is always better. When news finally broke, relief was clear and thereafter the typical South African humor came through, naming him the hide and seek champion. What needs to be noted though is the mental health issues underlying his absence.
Mental health is not often spoken of, and especially not by men. In a world of sport and such a hard and attritional sport like rugby, you can imagine that players often feel quite isolated and unable to seek out assistance. Sbu has been through a spate of injury lay offs and off field challenges and it seems as though the toll just got too much for him. The player retreated to the safety of his fathers home to try and reset and refresh and he has now spoken out on the difficult time he has been facing.
“There’s obviously a lot to speak about that I can’t say out loud but my condition is improving. 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. 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.”
Sbu reiterated the struggles that many players face, acknowledging that it is not only him that is struggling. We saw a similar thing in Australian rugby this year as Michael Hooper left his captaincy and team to return home for mental health issues. This really calls into question whether or not domestically and internationally, enough is being done to help our players.
I’m not special or different or unique in any way. I think it’s something that needs to be focused on a bit more, whether you’re on top or at the bottom. It’s always a rollercoaster. Maybe a little effort needs to be put into how the guys manage the wave of emotions that come with the good and bad times. A lot of things are out of your control as a rugby player. Nobody really teaches us how to manage ourselves, our thoughts and our emotions. It’s harder for the guys that are in tune with their spirit and their emotions. I’ve had plenty teammates and I can tell you, not everyone is OK. It’s a tough environment.”
It is important that we respect the player and what he is going through at the moment. You never know how tough it can be until you have faced it yourself and I am sure with time and support we will see him tearing up defences again soon. Whatever discussions are underway between him and his club are between them but we as a fan base should support the player who helped bring home the Web Ellis Cup in 2019.
“It pains me that I couldn’t hold it down for longer. I would have loved to add more to the four games I played in the jersey. Those were proud moments for me. I’m sorry to the people who brought me over to make a difference. I’m sorry that they brought me when I was in this stage of my life.”
To Contact A Counsellor Between 8am-8pm Monday To Sunday, Call: 011 234 4837 / Fax Number: 011 234 8182
For A Suicidal Emergency Contact Us On 0800 567 567
24hr Helpline 0800 456 789