Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss’ surprise announcement last week that he would be retiring from international rugby at the end of the year means the Boks will need to find a new skipper for next season.
Here are three contenders to replace Strauss:
1. Warren Whiteley
Whiteley led the Lions to their first ever Super Rugby final this year and has been the Johannesburg franchise’s skipper for the last three years. Athletic and quick, with good hands, the 28-year-old is an excellent link man between backs and forwards.
A natural leader of men, the dynamic No. 8 is highly respected amongst his peers and an excellent communicator.
With the SARU having apparently requested prior to Strauss’ appointment that the captain be a home-based player, Whiteley would be a very strong candidate.
The big question mark against the eight times capped backrower, however, is his place in the team. The currently injured Duane Vermeulen (who Whiteley is currently deputising for) has been South Africa’s first-choice number eight for a while and Whiteley would have to convince Coetzee that he should be his main man at 8.
If he can do this, he stands an excellent chance of being the Boks’ new captain.
2. Duane Vermeulen
One of the best number eights in the world, the Toulon powerhouse leads from the front and commands respect from his team-mates.
Vermeulen has an excellent relationship with Allister Coetzee, and was his captain during the latter’s final season in charge at the Stormers last year. He is also the current captain of Toulon.
The 37-times capped star would undoubtedly be an outstanding choice as skipper but the fact that he plays his rugby outside South Africa could be a major stumbling block for his prospects.
When naming Strauss as his captain back in June, Coetzee said that it would not be ideal for the captain to be based overseas.
But having suffered two defeats in his first five games and with his team still apparently unsure of what style of play they are trying to adopt, he may have to do an U-turn on the overseas issue.
‘Thor’, as he is affectionately known, would bring drive and direction to a team which has seemed rudderless at times.
3. Handre Pollard
The 22-year-old Blue Bulls pivot is an outstanding talent and impressed at last year’s World Cup, starting in all seven of South Africa’s World Cup games.
A freak injury earlier this year ruled him out for the season but prior to that the 20-cap youngster had established himself as South Africa’s first choice ten.
Mature beyond his years, Pollard has captaincy experience having skippered South Africa impressively to a third place finish at the 2014 U-20 World Cup.
Choosing the 2014 IRB Junior Player of the Year as captain would be a look to the future, with a clear eye on the 2019 World Cup and beyond.
With Strauss staying as captain until the end of the year, the new captain wouldn’t take over until June 2017 at the soonest, thus giving Pollard time to regain his fitness and form in next year’s Super 18.
Pollard would represent a bold choice but with the World Cup only three years away and barring injury a probable mainstay for many years to come, he could also be the right choice.
With Strauss remaining in situ until the end of the year, Coetzee and SARU’s powerbrokers don’t have to rush to appoint a new man. But as with everything in South African rugby, things probably won’t be straightforward.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena
Read More About: 2014 U20 Rugby World Cup, Adriaan Strauss, Allister Coetzee, blue bulls, DHL Stormers, Duane Vermeulen, golden lions, handre pollard, rugby world cup 2015, South African rugby, toulon rugby, Warren Whiteley