The Bulls man will become the 57th captain of the Springboks when he leads his teammates on to the field at Newlands on June 11 for the first of the three Test matches against Ireland. He follows in the footsteps of Jean de Villiers, who announced his retirement from international rugby last year.
The France-based Du Plessis has not been selected in the 31-man Bok squad, which was announced on Saturday. Stormers teammates Scarra Ntubeni and Bongi Mbonambi will fight it out for a place on the Bok bench for the matches against the Irish.
“Bismarck and I shared some time (in the position), and lot of that time I was on the bench. (But) I also think that competition is good and healthy, and it was like that within the squad and it will be the same now,” Strauss said on Monday. “It always brings out the best in players in that situation, and I believe that you need to be good on the field to lead as well. Playing good rugby will be (the) main focus, and staying true to myself and the way that I lead.”
Coetzee said the captaincy would be reviewed after the Tests against Ireland, but also stressed that Strauss has a good chance of keeping the captaincy beyond the June series.
The Bok coach mentioned that the decision had been an easy one, and he wanted to announce it as soon as possible so that the team could have a leader on the field during on-field preparations.
“I was very excited about the first training session today and about the way he has led the team. Even more so, the way the players have responded to him as a leader,” Coetzee said. “It was not a difficult decision. He will be supported by some of the franchise captains and he will be working with a great leadership group. Therefore it was never really a difficult decision to make.
“I said it last week that the captain would come from within the borders of South Africa. It is definitely the right thing, and I could just see from the response at training today and after the announcement. It’s been taken very, very well and the senior players have pledged their support (to) the captain. It was important to announce the captain today, because we had our first session today. You cannot have a Springbok squad without a leader.”
Strauss has been a vice-captain for the Boks before, and even had a stint in charge of the side for a few minutes in the past. But he is looking forward to running out in front of the team on June 11.
“I have captained the side for a couple of minutes here and there, but not actually. I think being captain is when you lead the guys on the field. I see this as a first opportunity for me, being captain of the squad,” he said.
Strauss’ set-piece play and his bulldozing runs down the middle are some of the features of his play, which means that he is essentially a player who likes to lead by example.
However, he also prides himself on his values and what he can bring to the side on an emotional level, especially considering that some South Africans like to think of rugby as a matter of life and death.
“I believe as a leader, especially 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 for me,” Strauss said.
“I will make mistakes, but the guys next to me will know the passion is there for them, it’s there for South African rugby and the supporters out there. But I will always be honest and everything I do will come from the heart.
“For me the Boks always comes first. The Springbok means a lot to the people of South Africa. We as players are very proud and excited to play for the Boks. But we know, especially in our country, you play for a much higher purpose, and it’s for every single person out there supporting the Boks. We want to make the supporters proud.
“That is why we as a group have come together to play good rugby and winning rugby, and try and make the people proud of us.”
Original source: Strauss was an easy decision for Coetzee