Try-scorer Kolisi back in Springbok jersey and winning again

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Siya Kolisi wore the green Springboks jersey Saturday for the first time since leading South Africa to World Cup glory last November, and once again he was victorious.

The flanker scored one of three tries for the Greens in an unusual 25-9 victory over the Golds in a national trial behind closed doors at Newlands stadium in Cape Town.

It was a strange outcome as the Gold team skippered by World Cup centre Lukhanyo Am shaded the possession, scrum and lineout duels and conceded far fewer penalties.

Only when it came to handling errors were the Golds inferior, but the side lost because they were less clinical close to the tryline than Kolisi and his team-mates.

It was the second weekend of rugby in the republic after a shutdown since March due to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed nearly 17,000 South African lives.

For national coach Jacques Nienaber, at the ground, and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, watching on TV as a Covid-19 precaution, it was not a particularly enlightening evening.

"No one stood out," said Springboks legend and TV analyst Schalk Burger. "It was a hard watch throughout.

"The battle for scrum supremacy was interesting with both sides having spells of control and Sanele Nohamba was a tidy operator at scrum-half.

"Siya and his boys defended well and the difference between the teams was that his side took their chances while their rivals did not."

It was often a scrappy, stop-start affair with the whistle of the referee sounding too often for those longing to see fluent, multi-phase movements.

There was some comic relief when the ball bounced off a head and then a shin before Juarno Augustus, one of 20 replacements used, scored the match-clinching try.

- Moment of glory -

Kolisi had his moment of glory just before the hour mark with the Greens seven points ahead thanks to a penalty try and the offender, Damian Willemse, sin-binned.

It was not a happy outing for Willemse, who succeeded with only one of four kicks at goal before Curwin Bosch took over and converted two of three penalty attempts.

Kolisi, the first black Test captain of South Africa, swivelled when a driving maul came to a halt just short of the line and he scored.

"We operated with a Test mindset, playing little rugby in our own half and slowing the pace whenever possible," he said.

The trial featured 11 of the 16 home-based Springboks from the World Cup squad with injuries ruling out three, one quarantined and one temporarily playing abroad.

It followed pre-season matches last weekend involving the four former Super Rugby sides, the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Super Rugby Unlocked begins Friday and involves the 'big four' plus the Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas.

Defending champions South Africa have been included in the fixtures for a Rugby Championship in Australia from November 7 to December 12.

New Zealand are unhappy at a finish date that could see the squad quarantined over Christmas, and Australia coach Dave Rennie sympathises with the All Blacks.

Argentina have named a 45-man squad, including 23 of the Pumas who failed to get past the World Cup pool stage last year.

South Africa have yet to decide whether they will take part with Erasmus talking of a decision being made not later then October 10.

The world champions and SA Rugby officials are stuck between a rock and a hard place with no obvious escape route.

Having started playing only last week, the local players will lack sufficient game-time to play Tests while the governing body desperately need the windfall competing would bring.