No rush to pick Bok skipper

Allister Coetzee will need to consider the option of an interim captain as the June Test series draws ever closer, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Finally, the Boks have a coach, but there is no clear-cut favourite for the captaincy.

While there is no official stipulation that the Bok captain has to be based in South Africa, it is understandably the preferred option. For one, it certainly wouldn't be ideal for an overseas-based skipper to be unavailable for certain training camps and the odd Test match that falls outside of the international window.

It would also do nothing to dissuade the likes of potential future Bok leaders such as Handré Pollard and Pat Lambie to consider furthering their careers abroad at some point down the line.

The matter is further complicated by the likely locally-based candidates. At the Sharks, Beast Mtawarira is in his first season as captain. It's a similar story at the Stormers where Juan de Jongh and Frans Malherbe are sharing the captaincy duties, while Cheetahs captain Francois Venter is a youngster and unlikely to be on the Bok radar just yet. Then there's Warren Whiteley and Adriaan Strauss, surely the two strongest candidates in South Africa.

Whiteley has been an inspired leader at the Lions, and has vast experience as captain. There’s no doubt he would be a more than credible candidate at national level, but the fact remains that he will battle to hold down an assured starting berth when Duane Vermeulen is on the scene.

Similarly, Bulls captain Strauss is a seasoned skipper and no stranger to a leadership role in the Bok set-up. Yet he has predominantly served as the second-choice hooker to Bismarck du Plessis over recent seasons.

It all serves to highlight the complexity of the captaincy decision facing Coetzee. It was a conundrum that his predecessor Heyneke Meyer also grappled with for some time.

Understandably, Meyer wanted a captain he knew well and who he had worked with previously. Fourie du Preez was his first choice, but subsequently made himself unavailable, while Victor Matfield – who would have been another consideration for Meyer – had prematurely retired.

It led Meyer to appoint Jean de Villiers as captain, initially just for the first England series. Yet that short-term appointment ultimately became a permanent one, with Meyer admitting that De Villiers exceeded his expectations early on. Over the next four years, De Villiers and Meyer would form a strong bond that is essential for any coach and captain.

Like Meyer, there is no doubt Coetzee will have some preferred candidates in mind when it comes to the captaincy, but he’s already said his first priority is just to get a carefully considered squad together before being able to canvass the opinion of certain players and members of his management team.

Coetzee now has less than two months to prepare for the first Test against Ireland, and he really should consider following Meyer’s lead when it comes to appointing a skipper for just the June series. It will allow Coetzee time to settle into his role and begin working with a number of leaders in the squad before settling on a long-term captain.

Vermeulen and Francois Louw are surely the strongest overseas-based candidates, while Whiteley and Strauss are the experienced local skippers. But Coetzee also has a long history with the likes of a player such as De Jongh, and could quite possibly even have a bit of a bolter in mind.

Coetzee has so much to do in so little time, but there is simply no need to rush the appointment of the next Bok captain.

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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