Mzwandile Stick says the Springboks are not concerned about potentially facing the British & Irish Lions without Siya Kolisi as the influential Bok captain faces a call over his availability for the first Test.
Kolisi is one of several players, including Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi, who have been stuck in self-isolation in Johannesburg for the past 10 days after returning positive PCR tests following the win over Georgia two weeks ago.
While most of those players – including Handre Pollard, who joined Stick in Monday’s online media conference – have already returned to team training in Cape Town, Kolisi is among those with question marks over their status for Saturday’s first of three Test matches against the Lions.
Stick confirmed that Kolisi and Mapimpi will be seeing a specialist and a final call on their availability against the Lions will be made on Monday evening.
Even if the worst happens and the Springboks go into the first Test match without their captain, Stick said the Springbok coaches have faith in their squad.
“We trust the process and protocols in place. We want to stick by the plans. I am hoping for them to get great news but, if not, we have got great players in our squad. Even if Siya is not fit to play, we trust all the other guys who can play in that position. You look at a guy like Rynhardt Elstadt, Marco van Staden, Jasper Wiese, any of those guys could be selected. We trust them and believe in them that they have what it takes to do the job for us.
“We have got great leaders in our side. For example, if I can mention, Handre Pollard has been vice-captain for a while. We have a guy like Lukhanyo, who can also lead a team. We’ve got Eben, Bongi, Steven Kitshoff. That’s something we as a team are grateful of, having those experienced players in our squad. If Siya is not fit, we are not worried at all about who we select. We have got players who can do that job.”
Stick added most of the players had responded well to Covid-19 and that the squad is in a good space, given that they will almost be back to their full numbers in training.
“Some of them have been calling over the past couple of days, saying they are excited and looking forward to joining the team, which shows that they are already in a good space. So, when it comes to us being worried, honestly, I am not worried at all. Even if one or two of those players are not cleared to play.
“That is the class that we have in the squad. If they are cleared to play, that will be great, we get to select the best of the best. I don’t have a doubt that anyone in our squad has what it takes to win us the series. We will respect whatever decision is taken after today and just focus on the game.
“For now, we are in a good space where we have got almost everyone back in Cape Town, even the guys who were in Joburg for the last 10 days. I think the last group will arrive today. We are in a good space. It’s a Test week for us, so things will almost go back to 100% according to how we want things to be done during a Test week.
“I have to be honest and say that with everything that has happened over the past two weeks, it has almost happened at the right time. If you look at the squad now, we have almost go 100% going into our camp now, which is what we as coaches, we are in a good position.”