Kolisi, Mapimpi start for Boks in first Lions test

Kolisi, Mapimpi start for Boks in first Lions test

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has announced captain Siya Kolisi and wing Makazole Mapimpi in this Saturday’s starting line-up for the first test match against the British and Irish Lions.

Siya Kolisi Springboks AFP
Richard Heathcote - World Rugby via Getty Images

Several players including the skipper were given until Tuesday to be fit for the final fifteen and they all came through the mandatory return to play protocol which gave Nienaber a full-strength side to pick from for Saturday’s crunch test match.

“Siya is a player that we’ve worked with for quite some time and he knows our structures and knows what we are trying to do on the field,” coach Jacques Nienaber said. “And then obviously he’s been our captain and so it’s great that he can bring some calmness and structure back to us so we are very pleased to have him back.”

Seventeen of the 23-man squad for the first test played in the Rugby World Cup final in 2019 and only two weren’t at that World Cup. For Nienaber and his coaching staff this is crucial to counter the lack of game time in the squad.

“The majority of the squad started working with us in 2018 when we got this group of players together for the first time.

“With so few opportunities to play following the World Cup it’s been crucial that we have players that have been in the system and know what we want to do so that definitely played a big part in the selection of the side,” the coach added.

The new Bok mentor has moved away from the traditional six forwards and two backline players on the reserves bench. He’s gone with the less conventional five forwards and three backs on the bench for a number of reasons.

“With Handre (Pollard) not playing a lot of rugby and just coming back from Covid, Mapimpi the same, we thought it’s probably not the right time to go with two backs on the bench.

“If we were in a situation where we could go with a six-two split on the bench we probably would have.”

 Given the lack of game time at international level for the squad, Nienaber isn’t too concerned when it comes to match fitness.

“Every player from one to 15 has a role to play and the moment they don’t fulfil that role then we will make a substitution.

“If a player fulfils his role up to minute 80 then there’s no reason to substitute him and the players know that they have a role and as soon as there is a drop-off then they will be substituted.”

The Springboks go into the test match with a starting line-up that has featured in the green and gold over 550 times which is crucial in such a high-profile series and given the obvious lack of match-practice.

“You looking for guys that have been there before and understand what the pressure of the situation is because it’s going to be a massive game.

“You need players that have been exposed to that sort of pressure before and we can put them under as much pressure as we can during the week but ultimately playing in that environment is the real thing,” Nienaber explained.

Kwagga Smith starts at number eight in the absence of Duane Vermeulen while Ox Nche and Rynhardt Elstadt are the only two players in the squad that don’t have Rugby World Cup winners medals.

Handre Pollard will play in his 50th test match this Saturday.

Springboks v British and Irish Lions:

15. Willie le Roux, 14. Cheslin Kolbe, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Damien De Allende, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Handré Pollard, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Kwagga Smith, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6. Siya Kolisi (captain), 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Trevor Nyakane, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 1. Ox Nche.


16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Steven Kitshoff, 18. Frans Malherbe, 19. Lood de Jager, 20. Rynhardt Elstadt, 21. Herschel Jantjies, 22. Elton Jantjies, 23. Damien Willemse.


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