South Africa boosted by Siya Kolisi’s return from injury ahead of World Cup defense as Springboks captain’s third line in warm-up against Wales
- Siya Kolisi will return from injury as South Africa captain against Wales
- The 32-year-old flanker hasn’t played since April due to a knee injury
- The Springboks believe the current squad have more depth than the 2019 World Cup winners
South Africa put their World Cup rivals on red alert on Tuesday by confirming the return of their iconic frontman Siya Kolisi from injury and insisting their current squad have more depth than their class of 2019 who won the William Webb Ellis Cup in Japan four years ago.
The only problem for the Springboks was that their missives arrived minutes before news broke of England captain Owen Farrell’s surprise escape from suspension.
The rugby agenda will be dominated by Farrell for the rest of this week and likely World Cup preparations in France, but South Africa’s statement of intent shouldn’t be ignored amid madness elsewhere .
Jacques Nienaber’s side are defending champions and have one of their most important players back fit and available as the world showpiece approaches.
Captain Kolisi rose from relatively unknown status outside of South Africa to one of the world’s few superstars in rugby when he won the 2019 World Cup in the Far East.
Siya Kolisi will return from injury to captain South Africa against Wales on Saturday
He had been a doubt for the 2023 tournament after suffering a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on April 22.
Kolisi immediately underwent surgery and his World Cup run began.
On Saturday, the flanker will make his first appearance since that day in April after being named South Africa captain for their warm-up clash with Wales in Cardiff.
Kolisi cut a fine figure at his team’s hotel in Cardiff Bay yesterday (TUES), greeting MailSport with a smile and insisting his body felt fine as he underwent treatment in the same room as the South Africa’s head coach, Nienaber, was discussing his comeback with the media. We’ll know more about Kolisi later this week.
“It’s good to have Siya back and play him again,” said Nienaber, after naming a formidable Springbok side to face Wales at the Principality Stadium.
“He worked hard and he really deserves it. Having the opportunity to play is a reward for Siya for the amount of effort and sacrifice he has made to be ready now.
“It’s good for the team too because he’s been an integral part of this team for the last six years. It will be good to give him some exposure to the game to make sure he’s seasoned and sharp. when we enter the World Cup.
SOUTH AFRICA TEAM
(To face Wales at the Principality Stadium. Saturday, 3:15 p.m.)
Willie le Roux; Canan Moodie, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Manie Libbok, Jaden Hendrikse; Steven Kitshoff, Malcom Marx, Frans Malherbe, Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese
Subs: Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Grant Williams, Damian Willemse
When asked if he was still convinced that Kolisi would participate in the World Cup, Nienaber replied: “At the beginning you are not sure. A setback can happen and you have to back off a bit until that let him stabilize, then you can push again. I don’t think he had a single setback. He met all the markers.
Such is Kolisi’s importance to South Africa that he was named World Cup captain without a feature since April. He leads a team full of pace and power against Wales.
When asked if his team can compete in back-to-back World Cups, Nienaber’s words should sound like an ominous warning to their next rivals, especially as he left 2019 winners Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and Lood de Jager out of his French party due to injury.
“We have a bit of an older team. They are not old, but they are four years older and there are probably two thirds of this team who participated in the 2019 World Cup,” said Nienaber.
“I really think we have more depth than in 2019.”
Nienaber will leave South Africa for Leinster after the tournament and wants to end his spell alongside controversial Rassie Erasmus with a second Webb Ellis Cup.
Of the 23 Springbok players who will face Wales on Saturday, 12 featured in the 2019 final victory over England.
This spells trouble for Wales who are likely to field another mixed team.
Warren Gatland’s men have not ruled out strikers Dewi Lake and Taine Plumtree’s chances of traveling to France after suffering knee and shoulder injuries in the 19-17 loss to England at the weekend. last end at Twickenham.
South Africa believe current squad have more depth than 2019 World Cup winners
Wales head coach Gatland will name his final 33-man squad for the World Cup on Monday. The game against South Africa is therefore the last chance for their players to impress. Gatland will confirm their squad on Wednesday morning, with full-backs Johnny Williams and Alex Cuthbert likely to be named and Jac Morgan a possible returnee as captain.
Experienced pair Gareth Anscombe and Taulupe Faletau are unsuited to be involved as they continue to have thumb and calf problems respectively.
Nienaber described the impressive young winger Morgan as a ‘praying mantis’ given his excellent ability to break down. A possible battle between Morgan and Kolisi would be one to watch.
“Wales are a bold team – they don’t hold back,” said Nienaber. “We have to be physically ready for the game and participate in every battle from the start. We expect this to be an epic battle.