Who will be the next Springbok captain?


The openside flank is said to be in line to take over from Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield, who led the Boks under Heyneke Meyer and at last year’s World Cup, as the team’s new leader.

Coetzee knows the 30-year-old well from his days as coach of Western Province and the Stormers. Louw represented the Cape teams between 2006 and 2011 before he moved to Bath in England where he has captained the team on a regular basis. His contract with the club runs until 2019.

While The Star has learnt that Louw is the front-runner for the job, with the starting loose-trio to take on Ireland set to be Louw, Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen, there are a number of aspects for Coetzee to consider before he makes an appointment.

First and foremost is the question about how many players the Bok boss will include who play their rugby overseas and then, whether he’ll be permitted to name a captain who only jets in for Test duty?

If SA Rugby are happy with a foreign-club based player to lead the Boks, then Coetzee will have given serious thought to Louw, but also Vermeulen, who played under him at WP and the Stormers, but is now at Toulon in France.

However, if the rugby bosses prefer a captain based inside South Africa’s borders - mainly because it would help with marketing and branding purposes - then Coetzee has several candidates to consider.

Adriaan Strauss, a veteran of the team now, would be among the favourites, but one should not write off the challenges of the Lions’ inspirational Warren Whiteley and the Stormers’ Juan de Jongh, however, the latter man may be involved with the Olympic-bound Sevens team, ruling him out of the equation.

Schalk Burger would also, potentially, be an option, but at 33-years-old one suspects Coetzee will not consider him.Of course, Coetzee doesn’t have to make a long-term appointment, with the 2019 World Cup in mind.

It’s something both his predecessors, Peter de Villiers (2008-2011) and Heyneke Meyer (20012-2015), did when they appointed John Smit and De Villiers for the full four-year term, but there will be many who’ll say neither deserved their starting places at the end of their terms.

An appointment for the short-term, or without any promises about leading the side at the World Cup, may be the best choice Coetzee can make.

And that brings us to the issue of the player he picks to lead the side being the first choice in his position.

Louw was the first choice openside under Meyer, but will he still be that under Coetzee, especially with so many quality No 6s doing the rounds? Is Vermeulen the best eighthman or is Whiteley a better option?

The same can be asked about Strauss, De Jongh and Burger.Of all the candidates mentioned here, Louw is the most likely to be certain of a starting spot.The 31-man Bok squad for the three-Test series against Ireland next month will be named next Saturday.

The Man from Bath

Francois Louw

Age: 30

Tests: 43

Test debut: June 5, 2010

Position: Flank

After making his debut in 2010 and featuring at the World Cup in 2011, Louw returned to the Bok set-up in 2012 when Heyneke Meyer was coach.

He quickly established himself as the first choice openside flank and was one of the team’s most consistent performers over the four years. He’s a quality player with plenty of experience and is respected by teammates and opponents.

Will he keep his place though ahead of challengers like Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Jaco Kriel, Nizaam Carr and Siya Kolisi?

The Terror of Toulon

Duane Vermeulen

Age: 29

Tests: 35

Test debut: Sept 8, 2012

Position: No 8

Injuries set him back early in his career and he only made his Test debut in 2012, but Vermeulen has been a giant of the Bok pack ever since and he virtually made the No 8 jersey his own between 2012 and 2015.

Not only a strong ball-carrier and skilful player, he’s also shown a propensity to steal ball on the ground. A serious captaincy contender, but what of Warren Whiteley?

The Bulls Banker

Adriaan Strauss

Age: 30

Tests: 54

Test debut: July 19, 2008

Position: Hooker

”Atter”, as he is known to his teammates, has been a mainstay of the side for a few years now and was even the vice-captain at times during Meyer’s reign. Experienced and respected, he is among the best line-out throwers in the world and is followed by the men he leads.

But, will he be the first choice man, especially with Bismarck du Plessis still around, and the likes of Malcolm Marx, Edgar Marutlulle, Scarra Ntubeni and Bongi Mbonambi challenging for a spot?

The Bok Rookie

Warren Whiteley

Age: 28

Tests: 3

Test debut: September 6, 2014

Position: No 8

A man who’s established himself as one of the hardest working players in the country; a popular leader who’s helped turn around the fortunes of the Lions in recent years. Not the biggest and meanest, but a skilful No 8 who leaves everything on the field after 80 minutes. His biggest competition for the national No 8 jersey remains Vermeulen, unless Coetzee springs a real surprise.

The Man in the Middle

Juan de Jongh

Age: 28

Tests: 14

Test debut: June 5, 2010

Position: Centre

For years the centre has been one of the country’s best and most consistent performers, but his slight frame and coaches looking at other options have prevented him from playing more Test rugby. Will Coetzee’s appointment coincide with De Jongh getting his fair chance or has the Stormers’ co-captain’s time come and gone?

Competition for the 12 and 13 jerseys will be among the toughest in the coming seasons.

The Old Master

Schalk Burger

Age: 33

Tests: 86

Test debut: September 24, 2003

Position: Loose-forward

Burger has been a stalwart of Springbok rugby since making his Test debut at the Rugby World Cup in 2003. He’s overcome serious injury and illness in 2012 and 2013 to fight his way back into the Bok picture and playing at the 2015 World Cup, but his time may be up. Unless, of course, Coetzee opts to use him for as long as the player stays fit - Burger is, after all, able to play anywhere in the back row.

The Star

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