JOHANNESBURG – New Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus believes Siya Kolisi can turn into a modern-day André Venter, the one-time Bok blindside legend.
Kolisi was on Monday named Erasmus’ skipper for next month’s three-Test series against England, in the absence of last year’s injured team leaders, Eben Etzebeth and Warren Whiteley.
Lock Pieter-Steph du Toit will lead the Boks in the first Test under Erasmus’ guidance, against Wales in Washington this Saturday.
Kolisi becomes the first black captain of a Springbok team, a decision Erasmus said was merely a bonus.
“I’ve coached Siya since he was 18 years old. I went and got him in the Eastern Cape and put him into the academy at Western Province.
“I’ve known him since he was a junior, I know his qualities as a player and as a man, and captain,” said Erasmus.
“I’ve seen him go through tough times this year, in relation to form and as a captain, but it’s something that also happened five years ago. He remains a great player.
“All the other stuff (becoming the country’s first black Bok rugby captain) is a bonus for South Africa. It’s definitely not the reason why I’ve picked Siya.
“I like him – he’s humble, he’s quiet, he does his thing. It was a common-sense option.”
Regarding his form and the debate around whether Kolisi is an openside fetcher flank or blindside ball-carrier, Erasmus said: “He’s a nice physical player and this year, the way he’s playing now, it’s not been so flashy.
“But he’s been doing great work at the breakdown, he’s carried a lot, and cleaned out at rucks... he’s becoming more comfortable with a blindside role, like André Venter in his day.
“Siya’s been more physical than flashy, and I’m excited to see what he can offer us.”
Born in Zwide township near Port Elizabeth, Kolisi is also the DHL Stormers captain and has played in 28 Tests since making his debut at age 22 against Scotland in Nelspruit on 15 June 2013. He has four Test tries to his name. pic.twitter.com/I0bHXkHQSj
Du Toit will lead a squad of 26 to Washington later this week; his first stint at captaincy at the highest level of the game.
“I think he can become a really good leader,” said Erasmus. “I liked what I saw at the alignment camps (we held recently), and he’s still got a good number of years in him.
“His work ethic is excellent, and I want him to develop and grow to be a leader of the pack going forward.”
Erasmus said he would re-look the captaincy role when the Rugby Championship comes around later this year, when Whiteley and Etzebeth are again available for selection.
The team to play against Wales on Saturday will be named on Wednesday, before the team fly out to the USA.