CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa will be at a disadvantage due to a lack of international rugby over the last 20 months but are still confident of success against the British & Irish Lions, first-choice hooker Bongi Mbonambi said on Tuesday.
He will be scrumming down in the front row in the first test at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, which is only the second time in the last 20 months that the Springboks have played since winning the World Cup in Japan in November 2019.
“We are at a bit of a disadvantage in terms of game time against top-tier rugby teams but it’s one of the realities of COVID,” he told a news conference.
“But we’re working hard on the training pitch and doing our video analysis of the Lions. We’ve done as much as we can on the training pitch to ensure we are ready and can pitch up on Saturday.”
Mbonambi was among 14 players and six staff members who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and spent much of last week isolating in their hotel rooms.
“Being in isolation was quite tough, we couldn’t get much physical stuff done, so most of the preparation was video work and Zoom meetings.
“Joining back up with the squad on Monday, we had to show that we could step it up and match the intensity of the team. This weekend is a massive game for us and we had to make sure that we are prepared. We’ve done as much as we can and I think we are looking really good for Saturday.”
Mbonambi is joined by skipper Siya Kolisi, Makazole Mapimpi and Ox Nche in Saturday’s starting lineup from those who have just completed their isolation.
The COVID-19 cases meant the Springboks had to cancel the second of their two warm-up tests against Georgia earlier this month.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis)