'We're going to want him, like everyone else, to be fully fit and firing,' says Springbok coach
Despite missing out on the captaincy in his return match from injury for this weekend’s so-called farewell Test against Argentina in Pretoria, Siya Kolisi, if fit, will lead the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup next month.
Saturday’s Test at Loftus Versfeld is the Boks’ last before the 31-man World Cup squad is named and before they leave for Japan at the end of the month.
Veteran hooker Schalk Brits will lead the side in the absence of men like Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit, who are among 17 “first choice” players who’re being rested this week.
Kolisi, having sat out for weeks because of a knee injury and having not played any of the Boks’ Tests this year, is back in the No 6 jersey this weekend in a team that shows several changes from the one that beat Argentina in Salta last week to wrap up the Rugby Championship title.
Bok boss Rassie Erasmus made it clear yesterday that the flanker, despite missing out on the captaincy to Brits, would definitely lead the side in Japan, fitness permitting.
“Siya will be captain (at the World Cup),” confirmed Erasmus, ending all talk of someone like Vermeulen getting the main leadership role, a position he recently filled in Kolisi’s absence.
“It’s now a matter of getting Siya medically fit and through games. We need to get him back to Bok level after a long injury he only played 50 minutes last week.”
Erasmus though said Kolisi would be supported by a number of different leaders at the World Cup and that he’d almost certainly not play every game. “The benefit of Siya being injured, if there is a benefit, is that we’ve been able to grow others players in certain roles.
“We’re obviously hoping to have our best team on the field against the All Blacks in the opening game, but against Namibia we’ll probably rotate the players and there will be a chance for another captain.
“Right now all we want from Siya is to come through medically strong, get his confidence up where it should be. After this game all we’ve got left before the All Blacks match is one more outing against Japan, so it’s going to be tight for him. We’re going to want him, like everyone else, to be fully fit and firing. We don’t want to have anyone there who’s not 100 percent fit and on form.”
Erasmus said he’d decided on naming Brits as his captain for this weekend’s match because the hooker is an experienced operator who can pull the youngsters together. He added Kolisi was unlikely to even make a full half of rugby, having only returned to the game last weekend.
“We’re desperate to take Siya to the World Cup, and I just want him to concentrate on his game, get up to scratch. It just doesn’t make sense having him as captain if I take him off in the first half,” explained Erasmus.
“Schalk has been around and is by far the most experienced guy in the group. He knows how to get the guys going and is the best man for what we want to do in this game.”
The majority of the so-called first choice men, except Faf de Klerk – who’s come into the side because Herschel Jantjies took a knock to the head this week and is being rested – have been given the week off.
“They’ve proven themselves already and will be in the World Cup squad,” said Erasmus. “This is the ideal time to rest them.”
Erasmus confirmed Saturday’s match would be the last chance for certain individuals to push for a late inclusion in the final World Cup squad, which is being named on August 26.