DURBAN - Siya Kolisi will captain the Springboks against the British & Irish Lions, even if he is still building towards his best form in his comeback for the Sharks.
That much was made clear by Bok coach Jacques Nienaber when he addressed the media on Saturday, after his unveiling of the 46 players to do duty against the Lions.
When asked if Kolisi will lead the Boks, Nienaber said: “Nothing has changed – yes, 100%. We didn’t officially announce Siya as captain, but nothing has changed.”
The Bok captain has been the first to admit that he has been off the pace since the 2019 World Cup final, while battling injuries in the postlockdown landscape.
But after his highly publicised move to the Sharks, the 29-year-old has undergone a rigorous conditioning programme and has played four matches on the trot in the Rainbow Cup South Africa.
Kolisi was rested for the Sharks’ win over the Lions at the weekend, in line with Bok requests, but is expected to start against the Bulls this week in Durban.
While Kolisi’s rival for the No 6 jersey, Marcell Coetzee, was left out of the squad despite fine form for Ulster in the PRO14, Nienaber picked a number of players who have performed well overseas.
In that number are some of the eight uncapped players in hooker Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux), lock Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Montpellier), loose forward Jasper Wiese (Leicester), scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba (Sharks), centre Wandisile Simelane (Lions), wing Yaw Penxe (Sharks), wing Rosko Specman (Stormers), and Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi.
Only minutes before making the Bok squad announcement, Nienaber witnessed his first-choice No 8 Duane Vermeulen limping off the field in the Bulls’ Rainbow Cup match against the Stormers.
“We will have to wait and see, but it certainly looked bad, and he wouldn’t have limped off if it wasn’t serious, so we are fearing the worst,” Nienaber said.
“We always expected that with the Rainbow Cup being strength versus strength we could have some injury setbacks.
“Up to now, we have been quite fortunate with injuries but we did expect some big losses and I expect Duane might be one of them.”
As things turn out, the injury to Vermeulen could open the door for Coetzee, who can play No 8.
“Friday’s Bulls game against the Stormers was Marcell’s first game back in week 13 after injury,” Nienaber said.
“But the home-ground advantage we have now with him being back in South Africa is that he could play in the final round of the Rainbow Cup and possibly the final, and perhaps also in the Bulls’ game against the British & Irish Lions.
“We could pick up injury down the line – hopefully not, but if so, then he would be someone we would look at.”