The 30-year-old Bulls skipper was named as the Bok leader by coach Allister Coetzee on Monday afternoon in Stellenbosch, with Coetzee sticking to his pledge to pick a locally-based player as captain.
That saw other strong candidates such as France-based Duane Vermeulen (Toulon) and Francois Louw (Bath in England) ruled out. Coetzee didn’t name a vice-captain either, with Super Rugby franchise captains Frans Malherbe, Pat Lambie and Warren Whiteley, along with Tendai Mtawarira, mentioned as part of the Bok leadership group.
But following a third-place finish at last year’s Rugby World Cup, Strauss hopes that his Bok team can once again bring joy to South African rugby supporters. “For me, the Bok always comes first. The Springboks mean a lot to the people of South Africa, and we as players are very proud and excited to play for the Boks, but we know – especially in our country – that we play for a much higher purpose. It’s for every single out there supporting the Boks, every single South African,” Strauss said on Monday.
“We want to make the supporters proud, and that’s why as a group, we decided to play good rugby and winning rugby, and try to make the people out there proud of us.”
Coetzee has made it clear that he wants his team to embrace a more attacking style of play to complement the Boks physical strengths, but he cited Strauss’ consistency at hooker as one of the main reasons for handing him the captaincy.
“Adriaan wants to lead by example and should be someone who chooses himself. And that’s the kind of captain I want. Technically he is very good – there are few hookers who are more accurate than Adriaan in the lineouts. He has the right temperament, off the field as well,” the coach said.
“What is important is that I said last week that the captain would come from inside the country, and it’s definitely the right thing. I could just see from the response at training after the announcement today that it has been taken very well, and senior players have pledged their support right behind the captain. And the big thing is to align behind Adriaan.
“A captain has got to be there to win Test matches for our country and be an extension of the coaches on the field. And he has shown those attributes in a very short space of time. He’s taken to the fact that we need to be aligned as a group, in just normal, ordinary discussions. It’s the first time that I’m working with Adriaan and it has really been going well.”
Strauss, having had to play second fiddle behind first John Smit and then Bismarck du Plessis over the years in the national team, has finally become the first-choice Bok hooker.
But he is adamant that such competition was good for his development. “Myself and Bismarck shared some time, and a lot of the time I was on the bench. I also think that the competition is good and healthy, and it was healthy within the squad, and it will be the same now,” he said.
“It always brings the best out of players when that is the situation, and I believe that you need to be good on the field to lead as well. So, playing good rugby will definitely going to be my focus, and staying true to myself and the way that I lead.
“I truly believe, as a leader in a team environment, you will make mistakes. But as long as I know my heart is in the right place, the team will always come first with me. The guys next to me know that the passion is there for South African rugby and the supporters.”
Original source: Strauss: Boks play for a higher purpose