With injuries, form issues and quite a few senior players plying their trade abroad, Rassie Erasmus may give one of the young guns a crack as to lead the Springboks against against Wales and England in June.
The Springboks kick off their international commitments with a clash against Wales in Washington DC on Saturday, 2 June before returning home to face England in three-Test series.
Two of the main local candidates for the captaincy, Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth, have been struggling with injuries and haven’t seen a lot of game time this year, while Stormers captain Siya Kolisi’s form remains a bit of a concern following a stellar 2017.
Whiteley captained the Boks in the first couple of Tests of 2017 before suffering a season-ending groin injury. Etzebeth took over the role in the third home Test against France and continued to lead the team until the end of the year.
It seems unlikely that Erasmus is going to look at overseas options, especially as those players haven’t been part of the recent alignment camps with the different Super Rugby franchises, which was used to get everybody up to speed with the new Bok boss’ plans ahead of the international season.
“With Warren out and Eben not playing, and other guys who have been in leadership positions Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen playing abroad and Siya Kolisi — he is finding his feet now, he had a good game last week — it does make it difficult,” Erasmus told the media at Cape Town International Airport on Tuesday.
“The group will only be announced in the week prior to the Wales Test. So we will give it some time, because we want to see where Warren is going, he will be a strong contender, but you can’t go into a Test match with just 40 to 50 minutes of rugby under the belt.”
Erasmus will have a few options to pick from if he decides to give the captaincy to one of the younger, but established players. Flyhalf Handré Pollard would be an option, while Pieter-Steph du Toit would also be a logical choice. Both those players should be starters in any Springbok team at the moment.
“Even if none of those (senior) guys are ready, we might go with a young gun who has played the games and is fit and mature enough to handle it. We can’t just sit and wait for the older players to be ready,” Erasmus said.
“We might have to make a bold call.”
Meanwhile, Erasmus says he is he is very pleased with the outcome of the three Springbok alignment camps used to accelerate preparations for the forthcoming international rugby season.
The third and last four-day camp, featuring 15 players from the Sharks and one from the Cheetahs, finished off in Durban on Wednesday.
A combined total of 34 players from the Bulls, Lions and Stormers attended two similar camps staged earlier this month in Vanderbijlpark.
Junior Springbok coaching staff members Chean Roux and Louis Koen were also present at the Durban camp alongside Sharks head coach, Robert du Preez, as well as other coaching and conditioning personnel of the Durban-based franchise.
Looking back at the three camps, Erasmus said they have proved to be an extremely productive and useful exercise.
“I am very satisfied with the amount of technical and tactical preparation we did. We wanted the opportunity to spend some time with the players and explain our technical and playing philosophy as we prepare for the international season,” explained Erasmus.
He also praised the franchises for making the camps a reality and for allowing their coaching personnel to attend the proceedings.
“The local franchise coaches spend the most time with their players during the Vodacom Super Rugby and Guinness PRO14 competitions, so to involve them in our preparation makes perfect sense.
“The away game against Wales in Washington and the first Test against England just a week later in Johannesburg mean we will have some interesting challenges to overcome, but we have planned for this and there will be no excuses,” Erasmus added.