Siya Kolisi to lead South Africa against Lions in first Test after Covid lay-off

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South Africa captain Siya Kolisi has been passed fit to lead his country into Saturday’s first Test against the British and Irish Lions.

The flanker was one of 14 Springboks to test positive for coronavirus, forcing him to self-isolate in Johannesburg for 10 days.

Wing Makazole Mapimpi and prop Ox Nche have also been selected to start for the world champions in Cape Town this weekend, having undergone medical screening due to being in similar positions.

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Fly-half Handre Pollard, another of the Springboks who tested positive, will win his 50th cap.

The 23-man matchday squad selected by Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber includes 21 players who featured in the country’s triumphant World Cup campaign of 2019.

Nienaber has stuck with the same forward pack which began the 40-9 success over Georgia on July 2, with scrum-half Faf De Klerk, centres Damian De Allende and Lukhanyo Am and wings Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe the five men recalled.

The head coach allayed concerns that introducing players who had recently recovered from coronavirus could place his team at a disadvantage.

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber is preparing for the British and Irish Lions
South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber is preparing for the British and Irish Lions (Steve Haag/PA)

“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,” he said in a statement.

“The wellbeing 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.”

Loosehead Nche will pack down alongside hooker Bongi Mbonambi and tighthead Trevor Nyakane, ahead of locks Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, with blindside Kolisi and openside Pieter-Steph du Toit either side of Kwagga Smith in the back row.

Sale number nine De Klerk resumes his half-back partnership with vice-captain Pollard, with full-back Willie Le Roux retaining his starting spot, while De Allende, Am, Mapimpi and Kolbe each return.

South Africa’s Handre Pollard will win his 50th cap
South Africa’s Handre Pollard will win his 50th cap (Steve Haag/PA)

The Springboks’ experienced starting XV have 553 Test caps between them, with a further 225 caps among the replacements.

Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood De Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse make up the bench.

“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” said Nienaber.

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