Boost for Springboks ahead of Lions Test as Bongi Mbonambi returns from Covid-19 isolation
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CAPE TOWN – There will be considerable relief among the Springboks’ coaching ranks after they were able to welcome back first-choice hooker Bongi Mbonambi from Covid-19 isolation.
The Bok management announced on the team’s website on Sunday that Mbonambi, fellow Stormers hooker Scarra Ntubeni and Sale Sharks No 8 Dan du Preez would join the squad in Cape Town after fulfilling a mandatory self-isolation period following positive Covid-19 test results two weeks ago.
Mbonambi’s physical presence and accurate lineout-throwing was missed for South Africa A in their two matches last week against the Lions and Bulls, and he is a key part of the Bok front row expected to start the first Test.
Loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff has been in action, but tighthead Frans Malherbe has yet to be cleared from his Covid-19 protocols.
Joseph Dweba started in both SA A matches, and while he impressed with his robust ball-carrying and big hits in defence, he battled to find his lineout jumpers against the Bulls, while SA A weren’t able to gain physical ascendancy or dominate the scrums.
Mbonambi’s presence and experience will be vital in the red-hot cauldron of the first Test, and he is one of those stalwarts Nienaber is referring to when explaining how Covid-affected players can warrant selection for Saturday.
“When we select such a player, it must be somebody who has proved to us that he can do it physically – when a similar scenario has happened before. And if it’s a player that has been in our system for a long time, and who knows what we want to achieve,” the Bok coach said before the Bulls game.
“But it won’t be the norm – it will be outliers, if I can put it like that. Physically readiness is one of the top things, and that means physical and mental.
“Every morning we get a report on the players, and it is up to the medical team and the working group to say when each guy can return to training.”
Of course, Malcolm Marx featured off the bench against the Lions last Wednesday, and should start in the first Test if Mbonambi is a little underdone following his Covid isolation.