South Africa have announced their team to take on the British & Irish Lions in the first Test on Saturday, with the big news being the inclusion of captain Siya Kolisi.
There were major concerns over the fitness of the flanker who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month, leading to Kolisi undergoing heart and lung tests on Monday as part of return-to-play protocols.
Kolisi, who lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2019, is one of 26 members of the Springbok camp who tested positive but their selection is at full strength for the match at Cape Town Stadium.
Talismanic fly-half Handre Pollard is also in to start alongside Faf de Klerk on the occasion of his 50th cap.
Pollard will take on vice-captain duties, which were expected to be taken on by Lukhanyo Am, with Kolisi doubtful to last the full 80 minutes.
There is a surprise selection in the front row as head coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus elect to overload their bench.
Loosehead Ox Nche, capped only twice, starts ahead of Steven Kitshoff, while Trevor Nyakane gets the nod ahead of destructive scrummager Frans Malherbe.
Malcolm Marx, Lood de Jager and Elton Jantjies are notable names on a strong bench named by the Boks.
Questions have been asked about whether the Springboks head into the series undercooked, with Pollard facing such queries on Monday, and Nienaber was also clear that they were act decisively on selection.
“We have played three matches in the last few weeks with the Springboks facing Georgia and South Africa ‘A’ lining up against the British & Irish Lions and the Vodacom Bulls, and the first two matches in particular allowed us to settle a few player combinations that haven’t played since the Rugby World Cup final,” said Nienaber.
“The fact that most of the players participated in the Rugby World Cup means they know one another well on and off the field, and as coaches we know what they have to offer after having worked with most of them for several years.
“The forward battle is going to be as tough as it gets, so it’s important that we pitch up physically and ensure that we make our presence felt in the set pieces and at the contact points.
“This, combined with their hard-running backs, will test our defensive system, but we have been looking forward to these matches since the Rugby World Cup concluded and we have done our homework, so it is a case of doing everything at 100% and sticking to our structures.”
Springboks team to take on the British & Irish Lions in the first Test (Saturday, 5pm kick-off)
South Africa: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard (vc), 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Ox Nche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8 Kwagga Smith
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse