FILE - Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi. Photo: Willem Loock/BackpagePix
FILE - Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi. Photo: Willem Loock/BackpagePix

Boost for Springboks ahead of Lions Test as Bongi Mbonambi returns from Covid-19 isolation

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Jul 18, 2021

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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