MARIETTE ADAMS and DYLAN JACK debate the best Springbok captaincy options for the Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
Adams says Duane Vermeulen and Pieter-Steph du Toit:
There are several candidates for the captaincy due to their strong leadership qualities. The question to ask ourselves is how many of those players will hold down a place in the starting XV or even compete for 80 minutes?
For me, the leading candidates on the shortlist for the stand-in captaincy role should be front-rowers Tendai Mtawarira and Malcolm Marx, Stormers duo Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit and Bulls pair Handré Pollard and Duane Vermeulen.
Keeping in mind this role is only for the two opening Tests of the Rugby Championship – against the Wallabies and All Blacks no less – during which coach Rassie Erasmus plans to utilise split squads, Du Toit would be an excellent choice as skipper against the Wallabies in Johannesburg and Vermeulen for the highly anticipated clash with the All Blacks in Wellington.
During a period when Erasmus is most likely to try a few combinations and test some of the new players in the set-up, Du Toit and Vermeulen are dead certs to get game time.
Both are senior players and command a measure of authority irrespective of whether they wear the captain’s armband. In addition, the 26-year-old Du Toit and 32-year-old Vermeulen, who both enjoyed excellent Super Rugby campaigns, have captained South Africa before.
Etzebeth and Mtawarira are still working their way back to their best form following injury-interrupted seasons, while Pollard and Marx, I believe, are of better use to the Boks’ cause without the added responsibility of the captaincy.
Jack says go for a Vermeulen/Etzebeth co-captaincy:
While many will be favouring Duane Vermeulen to lead the Springboks over both of their Rugby Championship openers against the Wallabies and All Blacks, I have a feeling Rassie Erasmus will opt for something different.
At his first formal media conference of the year, Erasmus hinted that he may opt to field two very different sides across the two matches, keeping in mind that there are a couple of senior players who need game time after struggling with injuries towards the back end of Super Rugby.
‘We will probably mix up the first two games in terms of personnel. Saying that, it won’t necessarily be an A or a B side,’ Erasmus said. ‘There are a few guys that need game time.’
That, in turn, leads one to think that there could be two different captains in each match. Erasmus has already mentioned Etzebeth, who captained the Springboks in 2017, as a candidate, while adding the names of Pieter-Steph du Toit, Vermeulen, Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff to the list.
Etzebeth has been struggling since early June with a hand injury, but should he recover in time, he could lead the Boks in possibly the more ‘winnable’ of the two fixtures, with Vermeulen either rested or benched to prepare him to captain the side against the All Blacks.
From the little that Erasmus has revealed, that seems to be his most likely approach.
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