Siya Kolisi during the Bok World Cup squad announcement at Ulwazi Centre MultiChoice City in Johannesburg. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Springbok captain Siya Kolisi revealed yesterday, before the team’s departure to Japan and the World Cup today, he feared he would not be fit enough to be considered for the final 31-man squad.

Kolisi picked up a knee injury in the latter stages of Super Rugby and only returned to action a few weeks ago, having missed the entire Rugby Championship campaign, which the Boks won. He played a few minutes for Western Province in the Currie Cup before turning out for the Boks in the Farewell Test against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld two weeks ago.

“I’m feeling good (physically),” he said.

“But, I was worried at a time, I was under pressure,” said the popular Bok skipper about his injury and getting back in shape to prove his readiness to be considered for the squad.

“The great thing is I was with the squad the whole time. I watched them play and train, I was involved in the meetings and only went back (to the Cape) when they went on tour (to Australasia).

“It was a waiting period for me, and then to see if the knee would hold up. I wasn’t at my best against Argentina, but I’m happy (with the form I showed). I still need a bit more to get back, but these last two weeks (of training) have already helped me, and there are a few weeks more to come. I’ll get to where I need to be.”

Rassie Erasmus and Siya Kolisi during a press conference at the Pivot, Montecasino in Johannesburg. Photo: Christiaan Kotze BackpagePix

Coach Rassie Erasmus said the warm-up game against Japan next Friday - just over two weeks before the Boks’ opening Pool B game against New Zealand - would serve as a final tester for Kolisi and the team.

“Japan will be a tricky outing for us, playing against the hosts at a full-house,” said Erasmus. “We know the conditions will be hot and humid and the ball will be slippery, so I’m nervous for that game.

“It’s going to be important for us though to see Siya out there, get him to play 80 minutes. Also, it’ll allow us to get the guys with a few niggles to play and then we want to see some game-specific things, too. We’ve got a few boxes we still want to tick and the Japan game will allow us to do that.”

On the eve of the Boks’ departure, Erasmus said his squad were as best prepared as they could be. “The planning has been done, we got the support we needed and the players played their part. Conditioning-wise we’re ready ... if we don’t do well it’ll only be our fault. We now want to get on the plane and go and produce on the other side,” said Erasmus.

He added the biggest strength of his squad was that all 31 men are fit and ready to play. “All the guys can go 80 minutes ... Siya will get there for the first match. They’re all training, and I believe we can go toe-to-toe with the best in the game ... and when you can do that, you’re always going to have a chance.”

Thankfully the Springbok skipper is fighting fit as the team prepares to leave for Japan on Friday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Thankfully the Springbok skipper is fighting fit as the team prepares to leave for Japan on Friday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

While the Boks have performed well this season, Kolisi said the World Cup would be something completely different and pose new challenges in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to continue to build on what we’ve done in the last while but we also know we’re going to have to start afresh at the World Cup ... it’s a different tournament.

Every team will pitch up and that means we have to pitch up every time, too.”

@jacq_west

 

The Star

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