Boks could unveil 'new' captain against B&I Lions
South Africa may well be without World Cup-winning captain Siyamthanda Kolisi when they front up the British and Irish Lions in the first Test in Cape Town next Saturday.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber revealed that COVID-19 protocols dictate that players could be out of contention for almost three weeks.
The Bok coach’s revelation follows the announcement that Wilco Louw has been drafted into the squad this week and named on the bench for the South Africa ‘A’ versus Bulls match at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday – as cover for the remaining COVID-19 cases in the camp.
The COVID-19 return to play protocols means several of the players currently in isolation could be sidelined for up to 17 days from when they first went into segregation.
Players who recently tested positive included Kolisi, Dan du Preez, Retshegofaditswe Nche, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Siyabonga Ntubeni and Makazole Mapimpi.
Nienaber told a virtual media briefing – ahead of Saturday’s South Africa ‘A’ versus Bulls warm-up match – that, a week away from the series opener, there is no guarantee any of those players would feature at the Cape Town Stadium next Saturday.
“I am not 100 percent sure on that, I will probably lie if I give you an answer,” Nienaber told the media – when asked about the availability of his skipper and other players currently still in isolation.
“There are lots of criteria [for them to return].
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“We have got two medical professionals who run that [protocols] 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.
“[They will tell us:] ‘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.
“We do 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.”
He confirmed there is a group of 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 10 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 16 to 17 days to get back into the mix.
“There are protocols we have to follow.”
The Bok had 26 COVID-related cases – 14 players and 12 staff members.
This resulted in the call-up of Louw, because there was a shortage of available props in the camp ahead of Saturday’s SA ‘A’ versus Bulls game.
“We, unfortunately, had only four props available,” Nienaber said.
“If one of them got injured, then we wouldn’t be able to field a full front row and a bench.
“Then we would have to have forfeited the match, which is the reason why we have brought Wilco Louw in.”