By Michael Cantillon
Siya Kolisi will captain the Springboks vs the British and Irish Lions on Saturday, ending doubts he would be unavailable due to Covid-19.
Kolisi was one of a number of Springboks players to have tested positive for Covid-19 over the last few weeks, and having not played for South Africa ‘A’ vs the Lions or Bulls, and barely trained, many thought he would miss out.
First-choice Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard is another to start following a period in isolation, as does wing Makazole Mapimpi – who, like Kolisi, was thought likely to miss out on the first Test.
Elsewhere in the side, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and loosehead Ox Nche – who will earn just his third Test cap – are two further players to have tested positive for Covid before now, but start in the XV.
Experienced full-back Willie le Roux has overcome a hamstring injury to start, while sensational Toulouse wing Cheslin Kolbe completes the back-three alongside Mapimpi. Damien de Allende and Lukanyo Am combine in the centre to complete a backline all of Rugby World Cup winners.
Sale Sharks scrum-half Faf de Klerk joins Pollard (who will pick up his 50th cap) at half-back.
In the forwards, prop Trevor Nyakane starts ahead of Saracens tighthead Vincent Koch to complete the front-row with Mbonami and Nche, while Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert start in the second row.
Kolisi is joined by 2019 World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit (blindside) and Kwagga Smith (No 8) in the back-row as Duane Vermeulen remains out with an ankle injury.
Leicester Tigers No 8 Japser Wiese, who has impressed this summer up to now, has not made the squad, with the back-row having sustained an ankle knock playing for South Africa ‘A’ vs the Bulls.
Among the replacements for the Springboks, World Cup winners Steven Kitshoff (loosehead), Malcom Marx (hooker) and Frans Malherbe (tighthead) provide exceptional strength in depth.
Sale Sharks lock Lood de Jager provides second row cover, while Toulouse’s Rynhardt Elstadt is the back-row replacement.
Springboks coaching duo Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have not gone for their customary 6-2 split of forwards to backs on the bench, instead sticking to the conventional 5-3 split.
Herschel Jantjies provides scrum-half cover, Elton Jantjies fly-half cover and Damian Willemse back-three cover.
Springboks squad to face the British and Irish Lions for the first Test in Cape Town:
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8 Kwagga Smith.
Replacements: 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.
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