On Tuesday morning, 06 December 2022, Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Bulls Company, Edgar Rathbone addressed a media conference at Loftus Versfeld one day after it was announced the Sbu Nkosi had been located, with Rathbone spending time with the player. In his address to the media, Rathbone detailed some of the relevant information to ensure that members of the public, media and the international community had all the facts presented to them, sharing details that would help society understand the situation at hand but also empower others that may be in similar situations.
The full statement by Rathbone reads as follows:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Members of the media here, and those joining us online,
To everyone watching or listening to this across South Africa and the rest of the international community that has shown tremendous interest and support in this case,
Thank you for honouring this press conference this morning, To those of you who are first-time visitors, welcome to Loftus.
It was 22 days ago, now, that we began to live in a world where our reality was something we never thought nor could ever anticipate being our reality. What started as a simple non-appearance for training on Monday 14 November, quickly became a serious case of a missing player. Four days later, on the 17th of November, having failed to reach Sbu directly through his known channels and numerous visits to his known address here in Pretoria, we mandated our senior men’s manager to rope in the police.
We encountered a few challenges in this regard because we are not immediate family but still we insisted in continuing our search for Sbu because we are a family and frankly consider all those who form part of this Vodacom Bulls company, family.
Whilst everyone in the company who had contact with Sbu tried to reach him, whether be it via text or phone calls [without success] we also reached out to our commercial partners to help us broaden the search, as we grew in worry. We know the realities of our beautiful country and that elevated our concerns for the well-being of Sbu.
We were confident that we could locate Sbu without causing public panic but this did not pan out that way, with the story breaking through the media over the weekend. That meant we needed to fast-track how we deploy the resources we have, but still be strategic enough to give us the best chance at finding Sbu.
Perhaps our search for Sbu picked up defining momentum when SSG called, offering their tactical support, which offers state-of-the-art intelligence services, that led us to 1. Verifying the authenticity of some of the tips we were receiving, 2. whilst also helping us identify new possible leads
On Monday 05 December 2022, we, alongside SSG, travelled to a location we were confident we could find Sbu, not knowing who or what waited for us but willing to take the chance if it meant we could find him.
Once we reached the town, we stopped at the local police station to solicit their help but we were unsuccessful in this regard, with the police citing that we are not family and thus they cannot intervene. A decision they took after 2hrs5mins of hard negotiations. Again, SSG stepped up their support to us as the Vodacom Bulls and gave us the cover that we needed to go knocking at the doors where we thought Sbu was.
At approximately 13:33 we arrived at the location and began to knock, call and pray that we would atleast see Sbu.
Fortuitously, as we were considering moving to another address, his father-in-law pulled up to the gate – assuming that he was coming to visit – and he confirmed that Sbu was indeed inside the home. Having last seen him on Wednesday 30 November 2022. That spurred us on as we waited with hope that could not be dampened by the rain.
At approximately 14:02pm, Sbu stepped up to the gate and opened it for me without hesitation or resistance. We shared brief pleasantries because of the pouring rain and he invited me inside where we spent some 40 minutes speaking.
Specific contents of our conversation I cannot share, as I am sure we all can understand but in summary, it was important for me to establish that he was okay, safe and unharmed. Pursuant to that, it was important to try and understand where he is at, what has led to his decision and how we as a company and rugby family can be of support to him.
We were thrilled to find Sbu and incredibly relieved to see that he was alive. Equally, we were saddened to see him in the state that he was in, a gentle soul who has somewhat seen his light dim owing to his current well-being.
I am however confident that we are in a good position to provide Sbu with the support he needs and that we should acknowledge his incredible courage to even say to us, that he is not okay. Because he does not owe us that and yet he did, a valuable lesson for me and those around Sbu and one day, this will be his story to champion and empower other men to find the courage and find power in accepting help when not okay.
We would like to thank South Africans who joined us in prayer and those who asked how they could help.
Thank you to those who used their media stables to help us spread the message.
Now that Sbu is found and is going to be getting the support that he needs, we ask that we as the community around him, please offer him the space and privacy he needs to work on re- building his confidence and return to the Sbu we all have come to know him as. Let us be kind and desist from making untoward remarks that may not only be harmful towards him but others who are in similar positions and have not found the courage to seek help yet.
Finally, to all of you who are watching this or will have the opportunity to hear this, please be encouraged that it is okay to not feel okay. Seeking help does not make you weak or less valuable, it is my belief that it makes you stronger and shows that you are brave enough to seek support. So please seek support.
We as the Vodacom Bulls will now be exploring, alongside our supportive partners, support mechanisms that we can introduce in our rugby community and this is hopefully the start of something great for South African rugby because we are lucky today but tomorrow, our intervention may be too late and that is not something we want to see become a reality.