(SATSports) – Lukhanyo Am was named captain of the South Africa ‘A’ side, which boasts 18 members of the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup winning campaign, for the clash against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday.
Head coach Jacques Nienaber announced the squad on Monday with hooker Joseph Dweba the only uncapped player in the starting XV. The squad also includes five players who started in the Springboks’ Test against Georgia on July 2.
Veteran fly-half Morne Steyn, who famously kicked the penalty goal that clinched the series win against the Lions in 2009, will also start the match.
Nienaber said he was happy to be able to name a strong side given the COVID-19 outbreak within the Springboks camp which has seen more than 20 players and staff test positive. The wider Springboks squad provides players for the South Africa ‘A’ side.
“We may have lost our captain Siya (Kolisi), but there is a good leadership core within this group with the likes of Morné, Willie (le Roux), Eben (Etzebeth), Trevor (Nyakane) and Steven (Kitshoff), among others, whose experience will be invaluable in a match against a quality British & Irish Lions outfit,” Nienaber said.
“Players such as Joseph and Nicolaas (Janse van Rensburg) will also get their first taste of running out in the green and gold at senior level in what will mark a memorable occasion in their careers and we are excited to see them showcase their skills.”
The man who led South Africa to their third World Cup, Rassie Erasmus, will take charge while Nienaber continues with self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
“Rassie has been hands on in our coaching and team selection meetings, he helped formulate our team structures, and he knows the players and coaching staff well, so it’s not an issue to adapt,” Nienaber added.
The Springboks arrived in Cape Town on Sunday, while the players and team management who are in self-isolation will complete their mandatory isolation period in Johannesburg before making the trip to Cape Town on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Irish scrum-half Conor Murray will make his first start for the Lions since being named captain in place of Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones.
Anthony Watson, Dan Biggar and Chris Harris are the only players who retained their place in the Lions’ starting XV from the 71-31 demolition of the Cell C Sharks on Saturday.
Lions coach Warren Gatland said the game against the South Africa ‘A’ side will be his side’s “toughest encounter” of the tour so far.
“We expect them to be physical in the contact area and look to test us at scrum time.”
“As we move towards the business end of the tour, it’s pleasing to see so many players putting in some stand-out performances. As coaches we want the players to make Test selection as hard as possible and that’s we’re seeing.”