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The first Test race against time facing Springboks captain Kolisi

By Liam Heagney

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Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has admitted that some of their virus-affected players – a contingent that includes World Cup-winning skipper Siya Kolisi – could be unavailable for first Test selection against the Lions on July 24 due to the protocols surrounding the reintegration to the squad of those caught up in the outbreak.

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There have been a cumulative 14 positive Covid cases among players and twelve among the Springboks staff since they assembled to prepare for their three-match Test series versus the touring Lions and it was last Monday, July 11, when the identities of the latest players that had tested positive – including Kolisi – were revealed on the same day that the squad returned to training in advance of their midweek win over the Lions as a South Africa A team.

The latest players who tested positive were Springboks captain Kolisi, Dan du Preez, Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni and Makazole Mapimpi and Nienaber admitted on Friday, eight days out from the opening Test match in Cape Town, that he wasn’t sure that everyone who has been affected by the virus will be available for selection by the time the Test series gets started.

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“I’m not 100 per cent sure on that, I will probably lie if I give you an answer,” he said when asked at a virtual media briefing about the availability status next weekend of players who are currently off-limits to them and self-isolating.

“There are lots of criteria. We have got two medical professionals who run that for us and they are in constant communication with the medical advisory group that guides us through that process. They are on top of it and every morning we as a coaching group get feedback from them, this guy is still on track, that guy is on track and they can tell us this guy can join team training now.

“We just want to know when can he join us for training and we work with the players we have available and not wreck our heads with the guys and the process as they return. That is up to the doctors. They must get them ready and the moment that guy is ready to join our group we will work with him.

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“We currently still have players who are not available for selection because of the Covid protocols. When a player tests positive for Covid you go into isolation for 10 days. People then think they are eligible to play again after ten days but that is not the case.

“There is a return to play protocol that they have to follow before they can get selected. Basically, if a player tests positive for Covid it will take him 17 days to get back, 16 to 17 days to get back into the mix. There are protocols we have to follow.”

So low on props have the Springboks been left by the outbreak that they had to call Wilco Louw, the recent Gallagher Premiership title winner with Harlequins, into their squad to provide cover from the bench in this Saturday’s preparation match against the Bulls.

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“We, unfortunately, had only four props available and if one of them got injured then we wouldn’t be able to field a full front row and a bench and then you would have to forfeit the match which is the reason why we have brought Wilco Louw in.”

 

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The first Test race against time facing Springboks captain Kolisi

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