Kolisi returns from isolation to captain the Springboks

By Sports Desk July 20, 2021

World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi will lead South Africa against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday after returning from 10 days in isolation following a COVID-19 positive test.

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber announced his team on Tuesday, and the 23-man group features 21 players who helped South Africa to their global triumph two years ago in Japan.

Handre Pollard, who will act as vice-captain, will earn his 50th cap as the three-Test series gets under way in Cape Town.

Ox Nche and Makazole Mapimpi, with Kolisi, were the last to join the camp in Cape Town on Monday but all have proved their fitness following the self-isolation period in Johannesburg.

Nienaber's men breezed past Georgia 40-9 in a warm-up Test two weeks ago but the scheduled second match was cancelled due to coronavirus outbreaks in both camps, meaning Saturday will be just the Springboks' second Test since the World Cup success.

The Springboks opt for changes on the wing, where Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe will start, and in the centres where Damian de Allende resumes his partnership with Lukhanyo Am.

South Africa make two further changes to their replacements, with Lood de Jager of Sale Sharks and Rynhardt Elstadt of Toulouse replacing Marvin Orie and Jasper Wiese.

Warren Gatland is expected to reveal his 23-man Lions selection on Wednesday as the tourists prepare for the highly anticipated series opener.

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

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

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    Fabien Galthie provided an encouraging update on Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack after France's key duo tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Six Nations.

    Les Bleus' preparation for the tournament has been hard hit by a host of contracting coronavirus.  

    Bernard Le Roux had to make 11 changes to his 42-man squad, with World Rugby Player of the Year Dupont, fly-half Ntamack and Bernard Le Roux among those who were unable to report for international duty.

    Galthie on Wednesday revealed the absentees due to COVID-19 are recovering well ahead of his side's opening game of the tournament against Italy at Stade de France a week on Sunday.

    The France head coach said: "We keep in touch with all the players from afar, of course.

    "We have good news concerning the players and their state of health and spirit and all are doing well."

    Mercurial scrum-half Dupont has not played since December 11 due to a knee injury and coronavirus.

    Galthie says the playmaker could return for Toulouse in their Top 14 encounter with Racing 92 on Saturday.

    "I have spoken to him: he is doing well. He resumed training two weeks ago," said Galthie 

    "He wanted to play against Cardiff but the match did not go ahead. Then of course he tested positive for COVID. But he is fine, and is still training. Today he had a test at his club and depending on the results he will play or not for Toulouse this weekend.

    "That is up to his head coach Ugo Mola and I have confidence in him he will take the right decision both for his team and for Antoine."

    It is 12 years since France won the Six Nations, but they are favourites to end that title drought this time around and that is music to Galthie's ears. 

    "I am very happy with this compliment, we’re very happy and proud to be labelled as favourites," he said.

    "We are very happy to hear all those positive comments. It's very rewarding, it's rewarding for our two-year work, it's rewarding for all the commitment of the players, the virtues of the team and their dedication on the pitch."

  • Simon Harmer returns to South Africa squad more than six years after last Test cap Simon Harmer returns to South Africa squad more than six years after last Test cap

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    The off-spinner has been added to a 17-man squad in place of George Linde, who is unavailable because of his impending wedding, while Prenelan Subrayen is also out due to a groin injury.

    Harmer has not played for the Proteas at Test level since the tour of India in 2015, with his fifth and most recent appearance coming in Nagpur in November that year.

    The 32-year-old signed a Kolpak deal with Essex in 2017 as his international opportunities appeared limited and promptly helped the club to their first County Championship title in 25 years, taking 72 wickets including a career-best 8-36 performance against Warwickshire.

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    Twenty-three-year-old Lutho Sipamla has also been included for the two-match series that begins in Christchurch on February 16.

    Victor Mpitsang, Cricket South Africa's convenor of selectors, said: "Our Test team has been successful under the strong leadership of Dean Elgar and his deputy, Temba Bavuma, and have returned good results in recent times. We are confident that they will continue in the same vein, as they head off to New Zealand.

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    "We wish Dean, coach Mark Boucher and the team all the best for the series and safe travels."

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    Jones was not included in the defending champions' squad last week as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

    Dan Biggar was named captain for the tournament in the absence of the inspirational lock, who did the damage in a 54-16 thrashing against New Zealand in October.

    Jones incredibly recovered from a dislocated shoulder to skipper the British and Irish Lions in South Africa last year.

    Wales head coach Pivac says Jones is unlikely to play in the Six Nations, but there is a chance the 36-year-old could feature.

    "Never say never," Pivac said, adding: "It's Alun Wyn Jones. I probably wouldn't enter the conversation if it was anyone else, but the guy has broken so many records.

    "I honestly say that, I would never say never. But look, it'll be a long shot. Let's just say that.

    "Al is working incredibly hard behind the scenes, as you know he would, to get himself in the best shape possible for either the Ospreys or Wales."

    Stand-in captain Biggar echoed Pivac's sentiments as the holders prepare for their opening match against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5.

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