Siya Kolisi must be backed unconditionally to lead the Springboks in the three-Test series against the British & Irish Lions. A month spent in the Springboks bio bubble will ensure that Kolisi is in prime condition for the 24th July series opener at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town, writes Mark Keohane.
Kolisi, by his own admission, was not playing well enough to make the Springboks starting XV a month ago. But then neither were other members of the victorious 2019 Rugby World Cup squad. Fortunately a Bok team was not facing the Lions a month ago and those who had misfired or weren’t firing a shot a month ago must be backed to front the Lions and back up their incredible World Cup final performance in defeating England 32-12.
Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen is the Springboks starting loose-trio that must continue. The likes of Jean-Luc du Preez and Marcel Coetzee offer wonderful cover and impact from the bench. Du Preez can cover lock and flank (for Du Toit) and Coetzee covers the other flank (for Kolisi) and potentially No 8 in a match-day 23 set-up.
Should Vermeulen not be available through injury, then the selectors are likely to go with one of Leicester’s Jasper Wiese or Sale’s Dan du Preez.
The good news is that there are loose-forward options among the Springboks and there is depth, with Bulls flanker Marco van Staden also a late addition to the Springboks alignment squad.
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber will confirm his first Bok squad on Saturday, 5th June, but it will be one that will be selected in partnership with Springboks National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.
Kolisi has been hampered by injury in the past six months and was a slow starter to the Rainbow Cup for the Sharks, but in the past two matches he has quickly started to be more of a presence and in seven weeks time he will be primed to repeat his heroics of the 2019 World Cup.
The Boks will benefit from being in the bio bubble because it will force a World Cup-type bonding. The players have not been together as a playing unit since the World Cup final in 2019 and they haven’t collectively enjoyed each other’s company since showcasing the World Cup trophy on a national grand parade.
Erasmus and Nienaber have confirmed they will select several youngsters and newcomers in the 45 but take it as a given that 25-30 of the names will be Bok regulars of the past three seasons and very experienced international players.
The only injury doubts are locks Lood de Jager and RG Snyman and all the information is that neither will be fit for the Lions series and the Rugby Championship, and their return will only be in November for the end of year tour.
Du Toit and flyhalf Handre Pollard have made impressive strides after a near year out of the game.
Du Toit, especially, has been colossal in getting through three successive Rainbow Cup matches and he will be central to any hopes the Stormers have of upsetting the Bulls at Loftus this Saturday.
Kolisi will also hope to get through another hour of playing time when the Sharks travel to Johannesburg to face the Lions.