SPRINGBOK captain Siya Kolisi is one of six players to be identified by South Africa Rugby as having returned a positive Covid test result during the last six days, alongside fellow loose- forward Dan du Preez, prop Ox Nché, hookers Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni, and wing Makazole Mapimpi.
With three members of the management team also returning positive test result, the total number of staff and players to have been infected with Covid since coming together a fortnight ago to begin preparation for this summer’s Lions tour has now reached 26.
Despite this, those players who have emerged without a positive result from six rounds of testing within the last six days will return to training today ahead of the world champions’ three Test series against the Lions which is due to kick-off in just under two weeks’ time.
With the entire squad and management team confined to their rooms since last Monday, it is anticipated that the possibility of transmission through close contact has been mitigated.
Cell C Sharks hooker Fez Mbatha and Vodacom Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka have been drafted into the squad as cover.
SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will take the lead at the field training sessions with assistant coaches Mzwandile Stick, Daan Human and Deon Davids while Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber continues his self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
“We are delighted to be able to return to the field and resume our preparations for the Castle Lager Lions Series,” said Nienaber, who was in good spirits despite being in self-isolation. “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 & 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.
“We are a tight-knit coaching team and everyone takes responsibility in their respective roles.
“It is also great to have Rassie (Erasmus) steering the ship while I am away. He has been part of the system for several years now and he guided most of these players to the Rugby World Cup title in 2019, so the team is in great hands.”
The South Africa ‘A’ team is scheduled to face the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town on Wednesday 14 Julyth, although Lions head coach Warren Gatland indicated after Saturday’s night 71-31 victory over the Cell C Sharks that this game may be pushed back to next Saturday, with Saturday’s game against the Stormers being brought forward to Wednesday instead.