Siya Kolisi will captain World champions South Africa after being named in the starting XV to face the British & Irish Lions in the first Test on Saturday following 10 days in self-isolation after a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp.
The Springboks’ preparations for the three-match series had been disrupted by COVID-19 with at least 20 players and staff testing positive and the entire squad having to go into isolation.
Kolisi, Makazole Mapimpi and Ox Nché were the last group of players to report for duty at the Springbok camp in Cape Town on Monday morning after completing their mandatory self-isolation in Johannesburg, and they were all cleared to return to the field on Monday afternoon following medical screening.
The 23-man squad named by head coach Jacques Nienaber on Tuesday will see 11 of the 15 players who started the 2019 Rugby World Cup final retain their places for the opening Test at Cape Town Stadium.
Nienaber said the team selection had been planned carefully and, though the second Test against Georgia did not take place, they were able to settle a few player combinations that had not played since the Rugby World Cup final.
“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,” Nienaber said.
He also allayed fears that players who had recovered from COVID-19 could place his team at a disadvantage.
“Some of the players didn’t have COVID-19 symptoms at all, they have been managed according their individual needs, and they have really impressed me with their intensity and enthusiasm at training,” he said.
“The well-being 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.”
The Lions have played five matches defeating three provincial sides and losing to the South Africa ‘A’ side which comprised 18 Rugby World Cup winners and was coached by 2019 World Cup winning coach Rassie Erasmus, in place of Nienaber who was in isolation at the time.
Forwards: Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche.
Backs: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk.
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse.