Lukhanyo Am will captain a strong South Africa ‘A’ team to face the British and Irish Lions on Wednesday, in a squad that contains 18 Rugby World Cup winners.
After the cancellation of the Springboks’ second warm-up Test with Georgia, due to Covid-19 outbreaks in both camps, Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber will use the fixture as preparation for the Test series.
In the absence of skipper Siya Kolisi due to a positive Covid-19 result, as well as regular starters hooker Bongi Mbonambi and wing Makazole Mapimpi, the side is otherwise near full-strength.
Willie Le Roux starts at full-back, with Toulouse wing Cheslin Kolbe and Sharks wing Sbu Nkosi completing the back-three.
The centre sees Munster’s Damian de Allende partner Am in the pairing that saw the Boks to their 2019 World Cup triumph, while Sale Sharks scrum-half Faf de Klerk also starts.
Out-half Handre Pollard is absent, so the highly-experienced Morne Styen starts at 10, with Elton Jantjies named among the replacements.
In the forwards, World Cup-winning props Steven Kitshoff and Trevor Nyakane flank uncapped hooker Joseph Dweba, with Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch in front row reserve.
The second row sees Eben Etzebeth partner Franco Mostert, as they did for the majority of the 2019 World Cup final, while 2019 World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit starts on South Africa’s blindside.
Leicester Tigers back-row Jasper Wiese, who made his Springbok debut vs Georgia two weeks ago, starts at No 8, while incoming Tigers flanker Marco van Staden plays at openside.
“We are pleased to be able to name a quality team with a number of experienced players despite the challenges in the last week, which included the entire squad being confined to their rooms as part of the team’s preventative self-isolation measures,” said head coach Nienaber.
“We may have lost our captain Siya (Kolisi), but there is a good leadership core within this group with the likes of Morné (Steyn), Willie (le Roux), Eben (Etzebeth), Trevor (Nyakane) and Steven (Kitshoff), among others, whose experience will be invaluable in a match against a quality British & Irish Lions outfit.
“Players such as Joseph (Dweba) and Nicolaas (Janse van Rensburg) will also get their first taste of running out in the green and gold at senior level in what will mark a memorable occasion in their careers and we are excited to see them showcase their skills.”
Nienaber, who has tested positive for Covid-19 himself in recent weeks, will continue to self-isolate as Erasmus takes charge of coaching duties. The squad contains 10 players on the bench, which Erasmus will cut to eight nearer the game.
“Rassie has been hands on in our coaching and team selection meetings, he helped formulate our team structures, and he knows the players and coaching staff well, so it’s not an issue to adapt,” he added,
The Springboks arrived in Cape Town on Sunday, while the players and team management who are in self-isolation will complete their mandatory isolation period in Johannesburg before making the trip to Cape Town on Wednesday.
Kolisi, Dan Du Preez, Ox Nche, Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni and Mapimpi were the latest cases to be confirmed on Sunday, alongside three members of team management, lifting the number of staff and players to have been infected with Covid in the camp to in excess of 20.
South Africa ‘A’: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Steven Kitshoff, 2 Joseph Dweba, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Marco van Staden, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8 Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Damian Willemse, 24 Kwagga Smith, 25 Elton Jantjies.
Wednesday’s South Africa ‘A’ vs British and Irish Lions clash in Cape Town is live and exclusive on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 6pm.
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