Siya Kolisi back to lead Boks after near-miraculous recovery from knee surgery less than four months ago

Siya Kolisi back to lead Boks after near-miraculous recovery from knee surgery less than four months ago
Bok skipper Siya Kolisi's last outing in the green and gold was against England last November. He will lead the team against Wales in Cardiff this weekend, less than four months after knee surgery. (Photo: Paul Harding/Getty Images)

Springbok Rugby World Cup captain Siya Kolisi — as well as Ox Nche and Jaden Hendrikse — will make their first Test appearances of the year on Saturday when the team lines up against Wales in their second World Cup warm-up match at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Timing is everything in sport and Siya Kolisi has timed his run back to fitness with the precision of laser surgery after being named to lead the Springboks against Wales in Cardiff this weekend.

Kolisi suffered anterior cruciate knee ligament damage playing for the Sharks against Munster in late April. He underwent surgery in early May and has been manically working to fight his way into Rugby World Cup contention. 

It’s a testament to his character and tenacity, and to medical science and a wide support network from his family and friends, to teammates, physicians, physios and strength and conditioning staff that he is ready to play so soon.

Yardstick for Kolisi

Of course, this weekend, in the Boks’ penultimate warm-up match before they officially start the defence of their World title, so beautifully and unexpectedly won in Japan fours years ago, will give an indication how much more work the Bok skipper needs to do.

Kolisi is unlikely to step onto the field and look like the player that was so dominant through 2021 and 2022. But it’s about getting some miles on the clock before the big show.

Siya Kolisi

Siya Kolisi interacts with fans during a send-off function at OR Tambo International Airport on 12 August, 2023. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

“It’s always nice to get an experienced player back and he has been our captain for six years,” coach Jacques Nienaber said. “He always brings a lekker vibe. He has been part of the squad for some time and it’s not like he has been on the outside. He has been with us through all our preparation so in some ways it doesn’t feel like he’s been away.”

Prop Ox Nche (pectoral muscle) and scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse (shoulder) have also been named for their first appearances of the year after injury in a side that sees 11 changes from the side that won 24-13 against Argentina in Buenos Aires two weeks ago.

“We have two Tests left before we begin our Rugby World Cup campaign and our focus now is to start building momentum and continuity so that we can peak at the right time for our opening game against Scotland in just under four weeks,” said Nienaber.

“We gave most of the players in the expanded squad a run in the last four matches and they are now battle-hardened and we know anyone in this squad can step in and rise to the challenge whenever they are selected.

Ox Nche

A pectoral muscle tear ruled prop Ox Nche out of the Springboks 2023 Rugby Championship campaign. But he’s fit and ready to play against Wales in Cardiff this weekend. (Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Nienaber was excited to welcome back Kolisi and Nche from injury and said: “Siya and Ox have been working extremely hard on their rehabilitation over the course of several weeks, and it’s fantastic that everything worked out according to plan to allow us to select them for this match.

“They have two matches to build up their match fitness before the World Cup, and although it will be important to manage their load in the match, it’s vital that they return to the field as they are key players in our set-up.

“Jaden was unfortunate not to play in the last few weeks, but he is a top-class player and he’s been training hard, so we are pleased that he’ll finally get his chance this weekend. Unlike Siya and Ox, he’s been training fully with us for weeks, so it’s a matter of getting back into game mode for him.”

The team features the reuniting of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe (both props) and Malcolm Marx (hooker) for the second time this season, while the Munster lock duo of Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman will start together in Springbok jerseys for the first time.

Jaden Hendrikse

Scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse has not played for the Boks this year after injury and the death of his father. But he will make his first start of 2023 against Wales at Principality Stadium in Cardiff this weekend. (Photo: Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)

The loose trio also has a new look to it, with Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit partnering up with Jasper Wiese in the other changes in the forward pack — reforming a combination that last appeared together against Ireland in November.

In the backline, Hendrikse will take the field alongside regular flyhalf Manie Libbok, while Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel rejoin in a midfield combination. Cheslin Kolbe comes in on the left wing where he will form an exciting back three with veteran fullback Willie le Roux and right wing Canan Moodie.

Nienaber opted for a six-two split in favour of forwards on the bench, where Nche and Vincent Koch will provide cover at prop and Bongi Mbonambi — who captained the team in the last Test against Argentina — at hooker, while the physical trio of Franco Mostert, Marco van Staden and Duane Vermeulen will also be ready to make an impact off the bench.

The two backs among the replacements are Grant Williams, who can provide cover at scrumhalf and wing, and Damian Willemse, who can slot in at flyhalf, centre and fullback. DM



15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff 

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Duane Vermeulen, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Damian Willemse

Kickoff on Saturday is at 4.15 pm, SA time. 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    And Farrel gets off totally scot-free. Unbelievable decision, so I suspect some behind-the-scenes plotting already happening. Here’s to Siya and the boys smashing everyone and bringing the trophy home.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Why are we playing these warm-up games? It is a recipe for losing players just before RWC. Ask France.

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