World Cup winning captain and inspirational leader of the Springboks, Siya Kolisi is back from a knee injury to reclaim his number six jersey. He will guide the national side into World Cup warm-up action against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
The Boks have just two warm-up matches left before they begin the defence of their Rugby World Cup crown in France in September. Kolisi has recovered from a serious knee injury just in time to get valuable game time under his belt.
Kolisi captains a Springbok team packed with heavy hitters. He links up with Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jasper Wiese for the first time since the trio played together against Ireland in November last year.
The front row, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Malcolm Marx, and the second row of Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman complete the pack. Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber believes Kolisi leading the Boks is an important psychological boost for the team.
“He is our captain over the last six years that we have been involved with the team, so it is always nice to get a guy back with experience and a leader and he always brings a lekker [nice] vibe so looking forward to having him back. It is awesome having him back in the build-up and in the training sessions,” says Nienaber.
Nienaber stressed that Kolisi was not rushed back into the side.
“If Siya wasn’t ready and fit this game, we would have played him the next game. So, for us was it important yes obviously the more games you have before the start of the World Cup to give them exposure and game minutes the better I would think,” Nienaber added.
In the backline, Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel link up as the centres. Cheslin Kolbe, Canan Moodie and Willie le Roux make up the back three and Jaden Hendrikse and Manie Libbok are the half-back combination. And according to Hendrikse, Kolisi’s return to captain the Boks has lifted the team’s morale.
“It is always nice to have Siya back. I worked with Siya at the Sharks, he is just a good leader, a good player motivates us well, [he] speaks to me well, gives advice on certain things, so it is always good to have Siya back,” says Hendrikse.
The Boks are expecting a physical match against Wales. They’ve opted for a 6-2 split on the bench between forwards and backs as they try to get the heavy artillery ready for the first match of the World Cup.
“To defend this World Cup will take a squad performance and you want players that are in form and have been exposed to test match rugby that have been battle hardened like what we will get this weekend when we play against Wales. It is going to be a nice physical battle and it is great for us. We want to be in form when we hit Scotland in that first game of the World Cup,” Nienaber reiterates.
There will be many more twists and turns before the start of the World Cup but the return of Siya Kolisi which Nienaber stresses has been meticulously handled by a team of doctors, is a key piece to the World Cup puzzle firmly in place.