Rassie Erasmus may need to explore his captaincy options in the Rugby Championship following news of Siya Kolisi’s serious injury setback, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Erasmus should be a worried man. It’s been confirmed that Kolisi – the inspirational skipper earmarked to lead South Africa at the World Cup later this year – will be sidelined with a serious knee injury for six weeks.
The precise nature of the injury is unconfirmed. The exact date of his return is dependent on how the knee responds to treatment in the coming weeks.
There is a chance that Kolisi will miss the Boks’ opening Rugby Championship match against Australia at Ellis Park on 20 July. As a result, South Africa may well begin the international season with a new skipper.
Erasmus will be hoping that Kolisi makes a full recovery before the Rugby Championship. That said, it may be wiser to treat the injury conservatively and ease Kolisi back into the game. It’s not worth risking the Bok skipper in matches of little consequence when the all-important World Cup is just around the corner.
At this stage, there are several members of the Bok leadership core on the sidelines. Handré Pollard (calf) and Duane Vermeulen (neck) won’t be back before the Vodacom Bulls’ last match of the regular season.
Warren Whiteley – who led the Boks in 2017 – has been ruled out for the rest of the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament with a knee injury. At best, Pieter-Steph du Toit (shoulder) will be back for the Stormers in three weeks’ time.
Erasmus may have intended to experiment in the Rugby Championship. The tournament is of secondary importance in a World Cup year, and many a Springbok coach has used it to trial a few individuals and combinations before the global competition.
Going by recent reports, Pollard and Vermeulen should be available for the Rugby Championship. Vermeulen led the Boks at times last year when Kolisi was off the field.
In 2015, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer was in a similar position. Jean de Villiers was fighting his way back from a serious knee injury, and Meyer was forced to pick Victor Matfield and then Schalk Burger as captain.
De Villiers suffered another serious injury at the 2015 World Cup itself. Matfield wasn’t immediately available to deputise, and so Meyer had to hand the responsibility to another senior player in Fourie du Preez.
Kolisi’s injury setback could be viewed as a blessing in disguise. The hard-working flanker will have the opportunity to rest ahead of the Rugby Championship and focus on the all-important Test season. Erasmus will be forced to plan for the worst-case scenario that sees Kolisi missing the World Cup or breaking down at the tournament itself.
On the other hand, the injury could not have come at a worse time for a player in great form.
Kolisi has been one of the standout performers in recent weeks, and his astute captaincy has allowed a limited Stormers side to claim some impressive results. It would have been great to see him building on those showings in the Cape side’s remaining fixtures.
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