CAPE TOWN - Who will captain the Springboks against England? With a little over a month left to go before Rassie Erasmus’ Boks kick off their 2018 international campaign, it will be one of the big questions as the international season draws near.
The Springboks will travel to Washington DC to face Wales on June 2, before returning home to host England in three Tests on June 9, June 16 and June 23.
Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth are of course two of the candidates. But with Whiteley’s foreseeable future unclear and Etzebeth also still on the road to recovery, it remains a puzzle.
Whiteley - who visited an orthopaedic surgeon to determine the extent of damage of a recurring knee injury last week - was supposed to return for the Lions’ game against the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday and for the full four-match tour to Australasia after missing the last five weeks of Super Rugby action due to a posterior cruciate ligament (knee) injury.
But he re-injured his knee during training last week and was a late withdrawl ahead of the Lions’ overseas trip.
The Lions skipper could perhaps still join the log-toppers during the tour, but coach Swys de Bruin also said that Whiteley’s recovery for Bok duty is the priority.
Etzebeth, on the other hand, hasn’t played any rugby this year and his return date is still unknown. The Sprinbok lock is recovering from a shoulder injury.
And then there’s Duane Vermeulen - who’s played only four Tests for the Springboks over the past two years, yet always seems to feature in Bok skipper discussions.
Since making his return to the Springboks on the end-of-year tour, there’s been a lot of speculation over the 31-year-old’s plans, although his departure from French club Toulon has been confirmed.
And given Vermeulen’s close association with Erasmus, I guess we can’t really be surprised if he is indeed appointed skipper.
But it’s a role I believe should go to Siya Kolisi. And that should have already been the case last year, when Allister Coetzee opted to appoint Etzebeth, Kolisi’s vice-captain at the Stormers, to the job.
This never-ending loyalty programme SA Rugby have towards Duane Vermeulen has proved one-sided on more than one occasion. Do we really need a captain who gets to call the shots as to when his overseas club commitments will allow him to join the Springboks?
Many things might be lost in the modern era, but loyalty and prioritising your national team shouldn’t be. I don’t care how “professional” the game has become and how much money talks, one of the key things that makes sport sport is dedication and commitment, and Vermeulen hasn’t shown a helluva lot of that to the Boks.
Besides, Kolisi has shown he has what it takes both as a player and a leader. And zooming in on the Stormers’ struggles this year and somehow equating that to a lack of leadership isn’t fair.
The Springboks need a captain who is inspiring as a player and as the leader of the pack. And Kolisi can be both. He was superb for the Boks last year, and on more than one occasion he was the shining light in an otherwise dim performance.
Appointing Kolisi captain of the Boks would be the right call. The right call which is overdue. And it can be the first step in rewriting the last few chapters of a troublesome Springbok book.