Siya Kolisi has recovered from Covid-19 and will lead the Springboks in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town on Saturday.
The World Cup winning captain will be joined in the Bok starting team by no less than 10 starters from the World Cup final team that played against England in 2019 in Yokohama for the first of three Tests against the men from Britain and Ireland.
Also selected to start this weekend after recovering from Covid in recent weeks are wing Makazole Mapimpi, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and flyhalf Handre Pollard. Lock Lood de Jager and prop Frans Malherbe will play off the bench, as will Rynhardt Elstadt and Damian Willemse.
The entire backline that will run out at the Cape Town Stadium is the same group that started in the World Cup final.
Versatile loose forward Kwagga Smith has won the race to fill the injured Duane Vermeulen’s shoes at number eight, while Trevor Nyakane and Ox Nche will wear the No 3 and 1 jerseys respectively.
The World Cup “bomb squad” is no more with new coach Jacques Nienaber opting to go with five forwards and three backs on the bench this week – with Willemse set to cover the role previously filled by Frans Steyn, in that he can play anywhere in the backline except perhaps scrumhalf.
Elton Jantjies will cover for Pollard who may not be able to go the full distance having only recently recovered from Covid.
Nienaber allayed concerns that introducing players who had recovered from Covid could place his team at a disadvantage.
“Some of the players didn’t have Covid 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,” said Nienaber.
“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 British and Irish Lions team will be named on Thursday. Saturday’s first Test kicks off at 6pm.
Springbok team for first Test
Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche. Bench: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschell Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse