Springboks to train again after captain Kolisi tests positive

·3-min read
British and Irish Lions wing Anthony Watson (2nd L) breaks away from Sharks full-back Anthony Volmink (2nd R) during a tour match the Lions won 71-31 in Pretoria on Saturday

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and coach Jacques Nienaber have both tested positive for Covid-19 in the seriously-disrupted build-up to a Test series against the British and Irish Lions, South African Rugby said on Sunday.

The Springboks were due to resume training on Sunday, just 13 days before the first Test, after being confined to their hotel rooms since Monday because of an outbreak of Covid in the camp.

According to a statement from SA Rugby, all the players have now tested negative. But Kolisi is among six Springboks who returned new positive tests during the past week, which will prevent him from training until he has spent an unspecified period in isolation.

Those in isolation include two other members of the 2019 World Cup-winning team, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and wing Makazole Mapimpi.

SA Rugby's statement followed a story in the Afrikaans-language Sunday newspaper Rapport, claiming that Kolisi was one of 13 players in the 44-man squad to have tested positive for the virus since training was suspended when lock Lood de Jager was the first confirmed case last week.

The statement did not confirm the Rapport story but said six players and three management staff "delivered new positive cases" during the week.

The players were Kolisi, Mbonambi, Mapimpi, loose forward Dan du Preez, prop Ox Nche and hooker Scarra Ntubeni.

The statement did not make clear whether the six were among those cleared on Saturday or when they or head coach Nienaber, who tested positive on Monday, would return to training.

- Erasmus to coach -

South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who coached the World Cup team, will take over the coaching again while Nienaber is in self-isolation.

Because of the number of front-row forwards affected, Sharks hooker Fez Mbatha and Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka have been added to the squad as cover.

SA Rugby has maintained what Rapport described as "radio silence" in the past week, refusing to answer questions about Covid, which include whether the bio-secure "bubble" was breached, with wives and girlfriends apparently going into the hotel and some squad members going out.

A second Test against Georgia last Friday was cancelled after outbreaks of Covid in both camps.

The SA Rugby statement quoted Nienaber as saying "it has been a challenging week with the Test against Georgia cancelled and the entire squad self-isolating for a few days as a preventative measure, so the players cannot wait to get back on the park.

"The Test against Georgia was important for us with an eye on preparing to face the British and Irish Lions, but these are extraordinary times and we have to adapt as a team, and I have to commend the players and management for that."

SA Rugby appeared to end speculation that there might be a fixture switch on the Lions tour schedule, stating that a South Africa A team was scheduled to face the Lions in Cape Town on Wednesday.