There will be plenty of interest in the performance of Springboks captain Siya Kolisi when they take on Wales in their Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff on Saturday.
The 32-year-old is set to make his return to action after being sidelined since April with a knee injury sustained while playing for the Sharks in a United Rugby Championship match against Munster in Durban.
Kolisi underwent surgery to repair the damage to the injury, after it was initially feared he would be sidelined for between six and nine months, and will lead the Boks out at the Principality Stadium this weekend.
Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber said Kolisi deserves plenty of credit for the way he handled his rehabilitation and said his return to action was not a fluke.
“Siya has shown what can be achieved by old-fashioned hard work,” he said. “He has been totally dedicated to getting to lead his country.
“He was fortunate in the sense that a host of guys in the squad have been through the same rehab from knee injuries and he was able to bounce things off those guys as he went through the different phases.
“It reassured him if he was told by these guys that they had similar sensations in the knee at the same stage.”
Kolisi will start alongside fellow flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jasper Wiese (number eight) in an exciting back-row and Nienaber said they would try to keep their captain on the field for as long as possible.
“He needs as many minutes as possible, but within reason,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bok speedster Cheslin Kolbe is relishing the prospect of taking to the field alongside Kolisi again and said he expects his captain’s return to boost the team.
“It’s massive for us to have Siya back in the mix,” he said. “The way in which he set his mind to his rehabilitation and returning to play shows what it means to him.
“The experience and energy he brings to the team is great, and it was also good to have him give input from the sidelines while he was on the road to recovery.”
Preparing for tough Welsh challenge
Kolbe expects the Boks to face a tough challenge against Wales on Saturday.
“They’ve brought back a few experienced guys, so they have a nice balance of youth and experience,” he added. “It is a good team with guys who can run the show, but the important thing for us will be to focus on what we have to do.”