JOHANNESBURG - Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen has hailed new captain Siya Kolisi, saying "there was something special about him" from the start of his senior career.
Kolisi will become the first black Test captain of the Springboks when he leads them against England at Ellis Park in Johannesburg Saturday. Vermeulen and fly-half Handre Pollard were other contenders for the captaincy with first choice Warren Whiteley and stand-in Eben Etzebeth both injured.
"I always knew that there was something special about him (Kolisi), even during his early days at the Stormers," Vermeulen told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday. "Siya is a great choice as captain. He is a good leader and I think a lot of the guys look up to him. I have got a lot of respect for him on and off the field because he is a really great guy who can inspire people," added the Toulon forward.
Vermeulen, whose Springbok appearances have been limited since the 2015 Rugby World Cup with home-based players preferred, said he also welcomed the change of coaches. Allister Coetzee was sacked this year after winning only 11 of 25 Tests during two seasons in charge and former Springbok loose forward Rassie Erasmus took over.
"When called up for the tour of Europe last year, I sensed all was not well and that the tenure of Allister was probably coming to an end," he said. "You could tell from the body language of the players that they were not in a good space," added the 31-year-old, whose three-year contract with Toulon has expired. There is a new energy about the guys this year with a new coach in charge and a new style of play on the cards."
South Africa play England in Johannesburg on June 9, in Bloemfontein on June 16 and in Cape Town on June 23.