British and Irish Lions: South Africa captain Siya Kolisi out of isolation to start for the Springboks in First Test

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Siya Kolisi starts against the Lions (Getty Images)
Siya Kolisi starts against the Lions (Getty Images)

South Africa’s inspirational captain Siya Kolisi has gone straight into their side to start the First Test against the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town on Saturday having overcome Covid-19.

World Cup-winning captain Kolisi starts at blindside flanker in a side containing 11 players who were involved when the Springboks beat England in Yokohama in November 2019 to win the Webb Ellis Trophy for the third time.

South Africa have played just one Test since that match, against Georgia earlier this month. Since then, Covid-19 has disrupted their preparation – with a Second Test against Georgia cancelled – although they fielded a strong “A” team against the Lions last Wednesday, winning 17-13.

Kolisi is one of a number of players who tested positive for Covid-19 who go straight into the team. Vice-captain Handre Pollard, who wins his 50th cap from fly-half, is another, while hooker Bongi Mbonambi and wing Makazole Mapimpi are in the same boat.

Up front, Mbombami is joined by props Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane in the front row, while Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert provide a robust combination at lock.

In the back row, Kolisi partners Pieter-Steph du Toit on the flanks, with Kwagga Smith at No8. The backline is identical to the one that South Africa employed in Yokohama.

Duane Vermeulen is injured, so Smith starts at No8, while lock Lood de Jager is fit and available to come onto the bench.

The bench has a 5-3 split, a departure from the “Bomb Squad” tactic used by the Springboks at the World Cup. Then, they used six forwards on the bench, including two locks.

Coach Jacques Nienaber explained that this was because of uncertainty around the fitness of Pollard and Mapimpi, which explains the selection of Elton Jantjes, a fly-half, alongside Damian Willemse on the bench as one of three backs.

The Springboks have named their team almost 48 hours before the Lions. “We are as transparent as we can be with the players,” said Nienaber. “We just thought we should get it out there.”

South Africa team to face the Lions

1 Ox Nche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Trevor Nyakane; 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert; 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Pięter-Steph du Toit, 8 Kwagga Smith

9 Faf de Klerk, 10 Handre Pollard; 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 12 Damian de Allende, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 14 Cheslin Kolbe; 15 Willie le Roux

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt; 21 Herschel Jantjes, 22 Elton Jantjes, 23 Damian Willemse

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