South Africa are confident captain Siya Kolisi will be fit for the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery last month and will give him as much time as possible to be ready even if he misses the opening games.
Kolisi suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury playing for the Sharks against Munster in the United Rugby Championship last month, but according to South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber is "hitting his markers" in terms of his recovery.
He said Kolisi was on track to be fit for the Word Cup, which kicks off in France in September and where South Africa will be defending the trophy that Kolisi lifted in Japan four years ago.
"You will recall that Siya was injured back then as well and did not play through most of the build-up to the tournament. He didn't lead the team when we won the Rugby Championship that year, and from memory he only played off the bench in our final warmup Test in Pretoria before our departure and then he played in the game we played against Japan in Japan two weeks before the start of the tournament," Nienaber told a press conference on Thursday.
"We've been through this before and we know that Siya can play at a World Cup and do a good job of leading the team as that was what happened in 2019."
South Africa Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus said he hoped that Kolisi might even be ready for one of the warm-up tests against Argentina, Wales and New Zealand.
Kolisi will be given right up until the tournament to prove his fitness because of his vital role with the side. "He's our captain," said Erasmus. "It's because he is captain that we are doing this. Even if he misses the first game against Scotland," said Erasmus.
South Africa will continue preparations for France with a camp in Pretoria next week and will name a squad of between 32 and 35 players after Saturday's URC final between Stormers and Munster in Cape Town.
This will be followed a fortnight later by a final squad for this year's Rugby Championship, where the Boks take on Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
South Africa open the defence of their World Cup against Scotland on September 10 in Marseille.