Springboks hopeful of Kolisi return for first Lions Test, update given on Vermeulen

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Siya Kolisi. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)
Siya Kolisi. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)
  • The Springboks are still holding on to faint hope that skipper Siya Kolisi will be ready to face the British & Irish Lions in July 24's first Test.
  • The flanker was one of five players to test positive for Covid-19 this past weekend, rendering their time-frame to return in time extremely tight.
  • Meanwhile, Duane Vermeulen still has an "outside" chance of featuring in the series though the Boks aren't banking on him staking a claim.

Despite missing a substantial number of key players, including skipper Siya Kolisi, who are still quarantining following positive Covid-19 tests, the Springboks are confident of having the majority of them in harness for the first Test against the British & Irish Lions on July 24.

Kolisi - along with Bongi Mbonambi, Makazole Mapimpi, Ox Nche, Dan du Preez and Scarra Ntubeni - were all confined to isolation for 10 days after last Saturday's round of testing, joining Handre Pollard, Marvin Orie, Frans Steyn, Frans Malherbe and Lood de Jager, who returned adverse results early last week.

As a result, only 34 players are currently in the Springboks' hard bio-bubble in Cape Town at the moment, though that was still sufficient for team management to have assembled a strong South Africa 'A' match squad for Wednesday night's meeting with the Lions at the Cape Town Stadium.

However, it seems increasingly unlikely that Kolisi, Mbonambi and Mapimpi - all men certain to have been first-choice picks for the first Test - will actually be running out in two weeks' time.


South Africa 'A'

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes (from): 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Damian Willemse, 24 Kwagga Smith, 25 Elton Jantjies

British & Irish Lions
15 Anthony Watson (England), 14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), 13 Chris Harris (Scotland), 12 Bundee Aki (Ireland), 11 Josh Adams (Wales), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Conor Murray (captain, Ireland), 8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Josh Navidi (Wales), 5 Iain Henderson (Ireland), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Kyle Sinckler (England), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 17 Mako Vunipola (England), 18 Zander Fagerson (Scotland), 19 Adam Beard (Wales), 20 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 21 Sam Simmonds (England), 22 Gareth Davies (Wales), 23 Elliot Daly (England)

"We have a return to play and train protocol in South Africa, which usually extends past the 10 days' isolation period. We first need to test a player's heart and lung functions," Rassie Erasmus, the national director of rugby, said on Monday.

"In terms of the date when a player can return, that's determined by the day of the positive test being detected."

Taking that time-frame in account would mean that Kolisi and co will only be out of isolation next Tuesday, which doesn't take into the return-to-training protocols.

"The team we'll put out on the park (for the first Test) will be the strongest," said Erasmus.

"Siya and a few others might make it. It's possible that some of the players might immediately slot in, while others take a little more time to get the engines going. Some will be back in time, others might only be ready from the second Test onwards."

Erasmus mentioned that men like Pollard and Steyn could be in frame for selection as their quarantine ends mid-week.

Meanwhile, veteran No 8 Duane Vermeulen is still in the frame to join the national camp as hopes of him recovering from ankle surgery springs eternal.

His integration into the bio-bubble will be similar to injured Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones.

"It will work the same as Alun Wyn. Duane is possibly in the mix for the last Test," said Erasmus. 

"There's a protocol for that and there's an outside chance for him. We're not banking on that, just monitoring the situation."     

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