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Kolisi will captain the Springboks against Ireland

PRETORIA – South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus said on Wednesday that Siya Kolisi would captain the Springboks in a two-Test home series against Ireland in July.

There has been speculation that the France-based free-agent forward could be stripped of the role the national team captain has always played in South Africa.

“I would always like to have a captain on site because he can get on a flight and we can have a weekend together and plan things and work on them,” Erasmus had said this year.

However, Erasmus told a press conference in Pretoria on Wednesday that Kolisi would be the 2023 Rugby World Cup winners for the highly anticipated series with the Irish.

“Siya will be captain,” Erasmus said as he looked forward to the clash of rugby titans that would see South Africa ranked first and Ireland second in the world.

Ireland defeated South Africa in the pool stages of the 2023 World Cup in France, but were knocked out in the quarter-finals by New Zealand, who lost to the Springboks in the final.

Kolisi was unavailable for a one-off Test with Wales last weekend because the match fell outside the international window and Parisian club Racing92 were not obliged to release players.

Fellow loose forward Pieter-Stephi du Toit took over the captaincy and led the Springboks to a 41-13 win in a warm-up match for the Ireland Series.

Responding to recent criticism of Kolisi’s condition by Racing92 owner Jacky Lorenzetti, Erasmus said: “Siya is fit – he is not fat”.

After Racing92 were knocked out of the French Top 14 Championship in the quarter-finals by Bordeaux-Begles, Lorenzetti said the Springbok was “invisible”.

“He gained a few kilos, lost his shape and yesterday he was invisible,” Lorenzetti told specialist website Rugbyrama.

“In the back row we were used to seeing an ultra-present warrior like Wenceslas Lauter. For now, Siya makes sure we don’t forget him,” the club owner added.

“The break was detrimental to him,” Lorenzetti said of a midseason hand injury suffered by Kolisi that required surgery.

Kolisi moved to France late last year after leading the Springboks to back-to-back World Cup titles after beating England in the 2019 final in Japan.

He became South Africa’s first black Test captain in 2018 and guided his country to a thrilling victory over England in Johannesburg after trailing by 21 points in the first half.

Kolisi, Du Toit and Duane Vermeulen formed a formidable back row in the World Cup final against England and four years later New Zealand.

Vermeulen retired after the 2023 victory at the Stade de France, but Kolisi and Du Toit will start the first Test against Ireland in Pretoria on July 6.

Ireland arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday to prepare for the series.