Allister Coetzee © Gallo Images
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee believes he will find a new Bok captain before the team assembles for the three test matches against France in June.
There was much debate last year during the international season after the incumbent Adriaan Strauss announced he would be retiring at the end of 2016 from international rugby, with many expecting Coetzee to try and find a successor to the hooker for the 2017 season.
But the results of the 2016 season, added to Coetzee’s own battles for his own job have made this almost impossible.
Ideally the Springbok captain needs to be based in South Africa, and it is hoped that the new 30 tests rule will aid Coetzee in finding and keeping the right candidate in the country at the moment.
While the obvious leaders in the group – Bath’s Francois Louw and Toulon’s Duane Vermeulen - are both overseas, there aren’t a lot of candidates that are both sure of their places in the team and have the leadership qualities needed.
Some may have touted Warren Whiteley for the job, but there is still a sense in the Bok camp that with a number of other candidates around for the No 8 position, Whiteley hasn’t yet commanded his own spot in the side, and the captain needs to be sure of his place if he is to be given the responsibility.
The other candidates include the Stormers duo of Siya Kolisi and Frans Malherbe, while Bulls captain Handre Pollard’s name has also been mentioned.
Coetzee admitted he was no closer to finding the ideal candidate yet, but through the three Bok camps – the first of which has just ended in Johannesburg – he would be making his choice before the test series arrives in June.
“What also has been a big challenge is the lack of senior players and leadership. If you look at the 2015 Rugby World Cup we’ve lost 650 test caps and five captains. It left a bit of a void,” Coetzee said.
“Therefore we are sitting with a young group of Springboks. Eben Etzebeth is 25, Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi are all 26 and younger. They may have played a couple of times but in terms of leadership they are still young.
“These are the guys we need to give the opportunity to grow, and we put them in the position to lead a national team.
“If I had to ask you who your captain would be, we would have a number of candidates.
“There is a process I’m going to follow, and I’ll definitely appoint a captain before the first two weeks of preparation.”
Much will still be debated about the captaincy in the months to come, but Coetzee knows all too well the lack of senior leadership was one of the problems last year in the camp. In the end the captain is simply the face of the team and works in tandem with a leadership group.
This in itself is as important as the choice he needs to make.
And he will need the wisdom of Solomon to do it.