'It would be unwise to write them off': South African scribe's warning to Lions as Springboks stars shine
A South African scribe has warned the British and Irish Lions not to write the Springboks off following the return of key players and a rise in form of numerous others.
At the forefront of the growing confidence within South Africa’s media cohort is the form of Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, who Sharks head coach Sean Everitt believes is “almost back to his best” after spending much of last year on the sideline with injury.
Since joining the Sharks from the Stormers this season, Kolisi has played in all four of his side’s Rainbow Cup fixtures, including in last week’s 25-22 defeat to his former team at Kings Park in Durban.
Despite the loss, Everitt was pleased with his star man’s output in a result that leaves the Sharks trailing the South African Conference-leading Bulls by four points.
“Siya was really good today,” Everitt said shortly after the match. “He got two steals on the field and had two big moments in a row in the build-up to Yaw Penxe’s try.
“I though he was really good. He’s had a good week and I have said to you guys before that he is getting better and better. I am just so happy that he put in such a really good performance and deserves it, because he has worked extremely hard.”
Kolisi ins’t the only Springboks hopeful who has found himself in strong form at the right time of the year.
Munster midfielder Damian de Allende produced a man-of-the-match performance in his side’s Rainbow Cup opener against Leinster, while Handre Pollard has recently returned for Top 14 juggernauts Montpellier after an eight-month injury spell.
Within the Republic, 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit marked his return from a long-term leg injury with a man-of-the-match showing against Kolisi’s Sharks on Saturday.
Stormer boss John Dobson described the utility forward as “a remarkable machine” and labelled his 80-minute return to action as “great for South African rugby”.
The same could also be said of the rejuvenation of veteran playmaker Morne Steyn’s career given how well the 36-year-old has flourished for the Pretoria-based side this season.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 25, 2021
In fact, Steyn has been so good that there have been calls from fans and pundits alike for the three-time Super Rugby champion to be handed a national re-call, five years after his last test appearance.
One of those same pundits, Craig Lewis of SA Rugby Magazine, believes that the return from injury and growth of form of various South African players around the globe only bodes well for the Springboks.
Taking into account the return of Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux and Makazole Mapimpi from Japan’s Top League, as well as the classy outings of Faf de Klerk and Eben Etzebeth in Europe, Lewis wrote “it would be unwise” to rule the Springboks out of a series win over the Lions.
“While many suggested not too long ago that the Springboks would be undercooked heading into the Lions series, it’s become apparent that it would be unwise to write them off regardless of an absence from action that stretches back to the 2019 World Cup final,” he penned.
Despite South Africa’s 20-month test match drought, Lewis went on to suggest that it may be the Lions who are considered the underdogs of the upcoming series, even if their players have already played in three major international campaigns since last year.
“In fact, as Lions boss Warren Gatland battled to secure the services of his first-choice coaching staff, while players such as George North (injured) and Ben Youngs (family responsibility) pulled out of the tour to South Africa, it’s the tourists who suddenly look to be on shaky ground.”
The Springboks will have the chance to play their first test in over a year-and-a-half when they play two warm-up tests against Georgia throughout July.
Likewise, the Lions will have their first hit-out against Japan in Edinburgh on June 26 before they begin their eight-match tour against the Lions (the Rainbow Cup franchise) at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on July 3.
The three-match test series between the Lions and Springboks will kick-off at Cape Town Stadium on July 24.
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