- Once he was cleared for a return to play from Covid-19, it was a mere formality that Siya Kolisi would immediately return as Bok skipper for the first Test against the Lions.
- Bok mentor Jacques Nienaber noted that Kolisi’s calmness and experience made it imperative that he slots in even if he’s rusty.
- Kolisi will also have the luxury of various leaders alongside him.
Siya Kolisi’s presence and authority means there was probably never a chance of him being held back for Saturday’s first Test against the British & Irish Lions once he was cleared for a return to play after serving his Covid-19 isolation period.
The Springbok skipper, along with Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi, slotted straight into the starting line-up for this weekend’s showdown despite only joining up with his team-mates on Monday.
“It was very important (that Siya be included),” Jacques Nienaber, the national coach, said after announcing a team featuring 17 players that played in 2019’s World Cup final.
“He has been a player we have worked with for quite some time, he knows our structures and what we’re trying to do from an on-field perspective.
“Obviously he has been our captain, so it’s always nice to have him and he’ll bring some calmness to the squad and we’re very happy to have him back.
“Siya has been our captain and has been announced captain of this British & Irish Lions squad. It’s about consistency in keeping him there, and Handre was our vice-captain in 2019.”
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 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
Substitutes: 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
British & Irish Lions
Despite possibly being a tad undercooked because of the virus robbing him of game time, quarantine “partner” Bongi Mbonambi gave the assurance that Kolisi’s determination to lay down a marker early in the series will compensate for any lack of match fitness.
“I was with Siya in isolation and it was quite tough. We couldn’t get much physical stuff done,” said the Bok hooker.
“But we were all in Zoom meetings and reviewing clips sent by the coaches. Most of the preparation was mental and analysing our opponents.
“Coming here on Monday, Siya and the rest of us knew we have to step up physically and mentally. We’ve had to match the intensity of our team-mates who have been active for a little longer. We’ve been doing as much as we can in that regard.
“We’re feeling good and I can tell you Siya is also.”
Should Kolisi’s tank get emptied a bit earlier than usual – which is to be expected – the Springboks will be safe in the knowledge that there’s a handy core of experienced leaders in their own right ready to provide direction.
It’s the type of insurance policy Nienaber is banking on.
“In our team, we’ve got multiple leaders and probably six or seven that run specific departments,” he said.
“Although there is a captain and a vice-captain, their roles are probably more communication with the referee on the day, but running the show on the field there are multiple captains and game drivers.”
Kick-off on Saturday is at 18:00.