Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said it was an easy decision to retain Siya Kolisi as captain for the Rugby Championship‚ which starts against Argentina on August 18.
Kolisi captained the Boks to a 2-1 series win over England in June, initially only appointed for that series. But when Erasmus named his 35-man squad for the championship‚ Kolisi was elected captain over returning former captains Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth.
Kolisi is the first black African to captain the Boks in a Test match. His appointment‚ while celebrated‚ also came with a lot of emotion and pressure on the 27-year-old’s shoulders.
"It was a no-brainer decision for me and there was no doubt in my mind that Siya would continue as captain‚" Erasmus said.
"After the relative success we had against England‚ and I have to say we weren’t world-beaters‚ Siya did a good job.
"The way he carried himself through a lot of emotional moments was impressive. It wasn’t negative emotion … he had a lot … on his shoulders and he dealt with it well.
"He also played relatively well but I believe you’ll see a different‚ better Siya in the Rugby Championship. He will start playing really well … if his performances at our training … are anything to go by.
"The fanfare around the captaincy has died down now and he can focus on his game."
With the inclusion of two genuine opensiders in the experienced Francois Louw as well as the uncapped Marco van Staden‚ the Bok back row might have a different look.
Erasmus made it clear that Kolisi was a guaranteed starter‚ although he might not necessarily start in the No6 shirt.
Van Staden was set to start for the Boks against England in June before injury in the Bulls’ final Super Rugby match ahead of the international season‚ ruled him out of the series.
"We will change the loose trio based on the opposition‚" Erasmus said. "Against certain teams we will need more players attacking the ball and contesting on the ground.
"Flo played a wonderful Test at No8 against the All Blacks … last year we could look at him there. He is versatile.
"Siya has taught himself the role of openside and has focused on that. He is brilliant over the ball and a good counter-rucker‚ but he is not the best at poaching or slowing the ball.
"But he is a good lineout option and we could try him at blindside flank. He has also played at No8 before and there is one thing for sure‚ he will always start because he is the captain. But I can say with certainty he will play a few games as blindside flank."
Etzebeth has not played a minute of rugby in 2018 after a serious shoulder injury sustained against Wales in Cardiff last November. Erasmus is confident he will be fit to play after the 67-Test veteran completed all the training at the Bok camp.
"Eben has been with us for nearly a month and is functionally one of the fittest guys in the squad‚" Erasmus said. "But we still have to get the final medical box ticked with the specialist clearing him. If that happens I will select him straight away. His lack of game time doesn’t worry me at all."