Siya Kolisi. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEE WARREN
Siya Kolisi. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEE WARREN

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says the recent transformation debates in SA played no role in his decision to award the captaincy to Siya Kolisi and it was the player’s leadership qualities that won him the honour.

Kolisi will become the first black African to captain the Springboks when they host England in three Tests in June, and Erasmus said on Monday he was impressed by the player’s leadership ability.

Chiliboy Ralepelle captained a Springbok XV against a World XV at Leicester in England at the age of 20 under former coach Jake White in 2006 but it was not an official Test match.

“I know Siya is a good leader and I am excited about what he can offer us‚” said Erasmus.

South African national rugby team head coach Rassie Erasmus announced on Monday morning, May 28 2018, that Siya Kolisi will be heading the team as it’s captain.

“I coached him since he was 18 years old when he arrived at the Stormers from the Eastern Cape and through the academy until he played for the Stormers.

“This year he has gone through some tough times with form as captain of the Stormers, but he is a great leader.

“I like him because he is humble‚ he is quiet and the way he is playing at the moment, he is not flashy.

“With the breakdown work he is doing in attack‚ the carries and clean-ups‚ he is playing almost like a blindside flanker.

“I have always understood all the transformation issues and that they are part of the way we are heading and I have bought into that.

“We are trying to fix all the wrong things that were done in the past. The recent things that happened did not have a bearing on this decision because my contract was signed long before.

“The players in this squad deserve to be here and I am not trying to fabricate things.”

Gwede Mantashe, national chairman of the ANC and a keen rugby supporter, called Kolisi’s appointment a “historic moment” but said a lot more had to be done to increase the numbers of top-level black players. “He is a good captain. He is a good person. It is quite encouraging. We must see more transformation,” Mantashe, who played rugby as a young man in his native Eastern Cape province, said.

Erasmus did not say whether Kolisi will remain as leader after the series against England when recent captains Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth return from injury.

“He [Kolisi] is most of the time available and it makes common sense that he is given this responsibility against England with Warren and Eben still out injured‚” he said.

The Springbok coach named a largely inexperienced squad on Monday to be led by Pieter-Steph du Toit against Wales in Washington DC on Saturday.

TimesLIVE, additional reporting Reuters