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Lions Coach Backs His Own Number 8 To Become Next Springboks Captain

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 08: Lions coach Johan Ackermann during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Southern Kings at Emirates Airline Park on July 08, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Johan Rynners/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Lions coach and former Springboks second-row Johan Ackerman believes that his side’s captain, Warren Whiteley, would be an excellent replacement to succeed Bulls hooker Adriaan Strauss as Springboks captain.

Strauss, who was only named Springboks captain in May following the appointment of Allister Coetzee as head coach in April, announced his plans to retire from international rugby at the end of the season following eight years as part of the South African national team.

The 30-year-old has played 61 Tests for the Springboks but told Coetzee prior to being named captain that he had plans to retire from international rugby at the end of the season.

“The plan was for me to serve and lead a team in transition as well as I can and take things week by week, but back then I already told him that I was thinking of retiring at the end of the season,” Strauss said in a statement from the South African Rugby Union on Thursday (via the Daily Mail).

“I’ve always accepted the pressure and the challenge of playing for and captaining the Springboks. I feel it’s the right time to let my team mates and our supporters know of the decision I made, with a greater plan in mind.”

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 11: Adriaan Strauss of South Africa during the 1st Castle Lager Incoming Series Test match between South Africa and Ireland at DHL Newlands Stadium on June 11, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Luke Walker/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Strauss’ decision to retire has left a void in South African Rugby that Ackermann believes Whiteley can fill.

The Boks number 8 captained the Lions to last season’s Super Rugby final and Ackermann believes that he has all the necessary capabilities to be the next Springboks captain.

“Warren Whiteley has all the characteristics to become Springbok captain, but then there must be agreement that he is the best number eight in the country,” Ackermann told Netwerk24 (via Planet Rugby).

“Warren will be an excellent Bok captain, but we must first decide whether or not he is the best in his position. You don’t want a situation where you have doubts over your captain and wonder whether he is the best in his position.

“The players will no doubt respond to Warren. He is an unbelievable guy on and off the field and he is also skilled in handling the media.”

HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 05:  Warren Whiteley of the Lions celebrates with Franco Mostert of the Lions after winning the round two Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Lions at FMG Stadium on March 5, 2016 in Hamilton, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Ackermann’s contention over Whiteley’s status as the best number 8 in South Africa stems from the presence of Toulon number 8 Duane Vermeulen.

Vermeulen was nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year award in 2014 and has been a consistent presence in the Springboks’ starting XV for a number of years now.

The 30-year-old is currently sidelined with a knee injury but he has also been touted as a potential successor to Strauss should Whiteley be overlooked as captain.

However, Sport 24 are reporting that the Nelspruit native could be out of contention for the captaincy as the SARU reportedly wish for the next Springboks captain to be playing in South Africa due to logistical reasons.

The site has circled Whiteley, Juan de Jongh, Oupa Mohoje, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager and Handré Pollard as potential successors to Strauss as Springboks captain.

Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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