Kolisi and Mapimpi line up to face Lions
SIYA Kolisi has been passed fit to captain the Springboks in Saturday’s first Test against the British and Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium (6pm kick-off). The openside flank has been in Covid-19 isolation in Johannesburg over the last two weeks, and it was touch and go whether he would be able to play this weekend. Kolisi only joined the squad on Monday, and had to visit a specialist on the same day, along with Makazole Mapimpi, to be cleared. Both players were given the green light, which saw the Bok coach Jacques Nienaber bring forward the team announcement from today to yesterday. Mapimpi was in a similar boat to Kolisi, but Nienaber explained yesterday that his experience and familiarity with the squad and team systems meant that it wasn’t such a major issue to bring him in despite missing last week’s SA A clash against the Lions. “Some of the players didn’t have Covid-19 symptoms at all, they have been managed according to their individual needs, and they have really impressed me with their intensity and enthusiasm at training,” Nienaber said. “The well-being of our players is of paramount importance, so we have been working closely with the medical team to work out what would be the best course of action for each player over the three-Test series. “We have played three matches in the last few weeks with the Springboks facing Georgia and South Africa ‘A’ lining up against the British & Irish Lions and the Bulls, and the first two matches in particular allowed us to settle a few player combinations that haven’t played since the Rugby World Cup final. “We planned our team selections carefully, which is why it was important for us to play a third match after the second Test against Georgia was cancelled, and we know what the players we selected can do. “The fact that most of the players participated in the Rugby World Cup means they know one another well on and off the field, and as coaches we know what they have to offer after having worked with most of them for several years.” In somewhat of a surprise, Ox Nche has been preferred to Steven Kitshoff at loosehead prop, while Trevor Nyakane will start at tighthead as Frans Malherbe will feature off the bench after he recovered from Covid-19. Nienaber has opted for Kwagga Smith at No 8 in place of the injured Duane Vermeulen, while there is a five-three bench split in favour of the forwards – where lock Lood de Jager has been cleared to play – with Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse covering the backs. Springbok Team 15 Willie le Roux 14 Cheslin Kolbe 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Handre Pollard (vice-captain) 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Kwagga Smith 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Ox Nche. Bench: 16 Malcolm Marx 17 Steven Kitshoff 18 Frans Malherbe 19 Lood de Jager 20 Rynhardt Elstadt 21 Herschel Jantjies 22 Elton Jantjies 23 Damian Willemse.