Winning the opening Test of the Castle Lager Lions Series is the only priority for Springbok captain Siya Kolisi as he warned his teammates not to look too far ahead.
South Africa will face The British & Irish Lions for the first time in 12 years when they lock horns in the opening Test of the three-match series in Cape Town today (Saturday 24 July) at 18h00 SA Time.
The Springboks won the 2009 series thanks to a long-range penalty goal by veteran fly-half Morné Steyn – who is back in the Springbok mix for this Tour.
And Kolisi, who recently returned from self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, made it clear that South Africa’s focus was squarely on the first Test.
Siya Kolisi said:
“Our main focus is on the first Test and to make sure we try to win this match. This opportunity comes around every 12 years, so we cannot think about the second or third Test. We need to get through the first Test and then look forward.
“It was obviously tough being out with COVID-19, but luckily I didn’t have symptoms. It was more of a mental thing for me, having to self-isolate during that time. There were protocols I had to follow to return to the field, but even when I was out, I followed everything the team was doing, and I attended all the team meetings online, and gave input.
“I did few tests when I got back, but it was good to be back on the field and physically I’m feeling good. If I get tired in the match, the coaches will know what signs to look for. They will replace me if that’s the case but I’m going to play as hard as I can.”
The battle between the Boks and the Lions will only be the second Test for national coach Jacques Nienaber’s side since winning the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
But with 21 of the 23 players in the matchday squad having participated in the international spectacle in Japan, Mzwandile Stick said that experience would be invaluable.
Stick is also expecting a bruising encounter against Warren Gatland’s charges but he is looking forward to the challenge as the Springboks look to put their imprint on the game.
“As South Africans there are things we cannot change – the physical side of the game is in our DNA,” said the Springbok assistant coach. “We won the Rugby World Cup playing this way and we’ll continue to play according to our strengths. We are proud of the way we play. We are expecting a kicking game in this match.
“Stuart Hogg and Dan Biggar both have good kicking games, and so too does Conor Murray and Owen Farrell, who are on the bench.
“I’ve said it before, but we have to be at our best to beat them. They have a quality team and dangerous outside backs, but the team that executes their game plan the best will win, and hopefully that will be us.”
Source: Lions Series website
Prince William tweets personal message
Prince William delighted royal fans in England by tweeting a rare personal message, offering his support to the British and Irish Lions (naturally!).
The Duke of Cambridge said:
“Wishing the @Lionsofficial team all the best ahead of the opening Test in Cape Town! It’s brilliant to see @AlunWynJones back fit and healthy, ready to lead the team. W.”