The Captaincy Conundrum

RICHARD FERGUSON wonders who the Springbok captain will be during the June International tests.

Tomorrow, in a month’s time, the Springboks play their first International fixture of the year, against Italy at Kings Park. The biggest question surrounding this date is who will lead out the team that day.

Jean de Villiers is the current captain, even though he was only appointed for the 2012 calendar year. Heyneke Meyer might have little choice but to continue with the stalwart, but will this be a good thing? Can the Springboks do better than another season with Jean de Villiers at the helm?

The Boks are in a fortunate position that the June Internationals are not as serious as they have been in the past. Playing Italy, Scotland and then any of Italy, Scotland or Samoa on the final day of the quadrangular tournament does seem like we can risk a few of the inexperienced players. Meyer’s tactics going into this three week period will be interesting, as he will lose his players for two more months of Super Rugby before they re-assemble to take part in the Rugby Championship.

One of two things can happen. Meyer can opt for a few new players and combinations with one beady eye on the future, or he will look to get his combinations settles against the early opposition in an attempt to build consistency before tackling the bigger nations.

As it stands, Meyer is already without a host of key players. His early choice of captain in Schalk Burger is yet to take part in training with the Stormers, and his absence is looking increasingly like that of Juan Smith, where we will one day wake up to a retirement announcement. Apart from the injury rot, there are also key individuals who have already agreed terms to leave South Africa and will not be available to play in the Rugby Championship. Do these players now take part in June only to leave the Boks setup once they leave for Europe?

Taking all of this into account, the Boks have a few leaders from which they will have to select a captain. The easiest will be to stick with Jean de Villiers. He has been playing some of the best rugby we have seen from him in years. The only negative is that he lacks an important captain’s trait, which is the ability to motivate the players when the team is on the back foot.

Two other candidates spring to mind, in Adriaan Strauss and Pierre Spies. Strauss is almost certainly going to start for the Boks in the absence of a fit Bismarck du Plessis, but once the Sharks hooker is back, he will most likely return to the front row, leaving the Boks without a captain. Spies on the other hand, is a Meyer favourite, looks to be in good form at the moment and leads his team well. They are most certainly the form South African team at the moment and it will be great if Meyer can tap into that confidence and see similar rugby from the Boks.

Adriaan Strauss is a great captain himself and looks to have overcome some of his fitness concerns from earlier in the year. He has also led his Cheetahs team with aplomb, a team that has been very successful in Super Rugby this year.

Apart from these three, no other player currently in South Africa fits the mould of Springbok captain, and we surely cannot hand the captaincy of our national team to a player who is yet to captain his franchise.

All in all, it looks like we are in for an interesting month in terms of selections, and a very interesting year when it comes to looking at the Rugby Championship.