“We are sad for Mapimpi. He fractured his eye socket and cheekbone, so he’ll be out for four to six weeks. We’ll miss him as a player and what he brings to the team off the field. But if we get to the final, we’ll fly him and Malcolm Marx back,” Erasmus said.
The injury was the result of a collision with Tongan scrum-half Augustine Pulu which resulted in a penalty being given against Tonga by referee Luke Pearce and no cards were shown for the incident.
The 2019 World Cup winner scored a hat-trick against Romania earlier in the competition, the first of the two matches he featured in at this year’s Rugby World Cup.
He’s the second South African player to leave the tournament through injury after hooker Malcolm Marx tore his anterior cruciate ligament in training. The team are set to announce the player who will be taking Mapimpi’s place in the squad in the coming days.
French captain Antoine Dupont sustained a similar injury to Mapimpi’s against Namibia earlier in the competition and has returned to the team camp this week after having surgery on his fractured cheekbone. He will miss the team’s final pool stage fixture against Italy, however may be available for the quarter-finals which, coincidentally, could see them face South Africa.
Having now completed their pool stage fixtures the Springboks face an anxious wait to find out if they will progress to the quarter-finals as Scotland face Ireland next weekend. They will then have an additional week to prepare for the knockout stage fixture if they advance from Pool B.
"The positive is it is pretty much similar to what we experienced in 2019 when we also finished our pool quite early,” head coach Jacques Nienaber said after the win against Tonga.
"I think we had a 12-13 day preparation break before we went into our quarter-final against Japan. It is something we have done before as a group. It worked out well for us back then so we'll give them two-three days off and then start preparing.
"Until we know what the outcome is of the pool and who we will face, the France-New Zealand pool will only be determined on Friday night so we will only actually know, depending on how [Pool B] finish, we will have a good idea of who we will play. I think in the first week now, give the guys some time off to get away from the game, to have a little bit of a mental break and then start focusing on what we can do better. So internally focusing on us on things we must improve if we want to stay in this competition until the end."
South Africa currently sit top of Pool B with 15 points but have played one more match than the other four teams, meaning their future will likely be determined by the result of Ireland vs Scotland next weekend, although it would take an unlikely set of circumstances for the Springboks to be eliminated.
Meanwhile, Handrè Pollard joined the Springboks camp on 18th September after Marx left the squad to return home. Pollard made his first appearance of the tournament against Tonga and contributed four conversions to their winning scoreline. And he reflected on the physicality Tonga brought to Marseille after the match.
"It was definitely physical. It was definitely tough for us but we got to give it to the Tongans. They definitely brought it to us, it's fantastic. We actually needed this I think, to prep our heads and minds,” the Leicester Tigers fly-half said.
He additionally shared his thoughts on the wait South Africa face to discover their fate in the remainder of the tournament.
"It's out of our hands. We have got to prep for whoever we play and if we don't play that is how the game goes. We played the game tonight out there and we tried our best. We have just got to wait and see what happens next,” he added.