Kolisi leads Springbok team packed with World Cup winners

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·3-min read
Back for the Boks: Siya Kolisi led South Africa in the first Test against Georgia before becoming one of the victims as coronavirus swept through the squad
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Siya Kolisi will lead South Africa's Springboks in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town on Saturday after recovering from Covid-19.

The starting team announced by coach Jacques Nienaber on Tuesday includes 11 of the Springboks who began the 32-12 World Cup final win against England in Japan in November 2019.

Kolisi, wing Makazole Mapimpi and hooker Bongi Mbonambi all came through medical tests before being cleared to play in what is expected to be a physically-demanding start to the three-Test series.

Nienaber said being able to select Kolisi was "very important".

"He's been a player that we've worked with for quite some time. He knows our structures, he knows what we're trying to do and obviously he's been our captain.

"He brings some calmness to our squad, so we're very happy to have him back."

Mbonambi said he and the other infected players had come through extensive medical tests on Sunday and Monday and were ready to "step up" and play their full part.

All the backs who played in the World Cup final will line up on Saturday, but there are four changes among the forwards.

Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane will be the starting props in place of Tendai Mtawarira, who has retired, and Frans Malherbe, who is on the bench.

Franco Mostert, a replacement in the final, will start at lock ahead of Lood de Jager, who is among the replacements having recovered from Covid.

- Difficult preparations -

Kwagga Smith will play at No. 8 in place of injured Duane Vermeulen.

The same pack faced Georgia in what proved to be a one-off Test on July 2 before Covid swept through both camps.

Nine of the South Africa A team that beat the Lions 17-13 last Wednesday are in the Test side.

Nienaber said Covid made preparations difficult, particularly in the cases of Mapimpi and De Jager, who had not taken part in any warm-up games.

He added that the starting team boasted more than 500 Test caps. "We have guys who have been there and understand what pressure is."

Nienaber said there was "not any strategic thinking" in bringing forward the team announcement a day from the original schedule.

"The players knew already, so we might as well put it out to the public."

He said his team would have to be adaptable against the Lions.

"Their squad is very versatile. They can confront us with multiple strategies. Our team will have to find solutions."

The Lions will announce their team on Thursday.

South Africa (15-1)

Willie le Roux; Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt); Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth; Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse

Coach: Jacques Nienaber (RSA)

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