The senior players have given new Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss their full backing ahead of the 2016 Test season, reports JON CARDINELLI in Stellenbosch.
On Monday evening, Bok coach Allister Coetzee told the South African media and public that Strauss will lead the national team in the three-Test series against Ireland.
The decision was first relayed to Strauss around 7am on Monday morning. According to Coetzee, Strauss’s first reaction to the news was disbelief.
Two days before the announcement, Coetzee said that a player based in South Africa would be preferred for the leadership role. This all but ruled out strong candidates like Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw, who both play their club rugby in Europe.
‘It wasn’t a difficult decision at all,’ said Coetzee, who was speaking from the Bok team’s training base in Stellenbosch. ‘I said it before, the captain must be based within the boundaries of this country. I believe Adriaan is a player who has come through the ranks as a leader and deserves this chance. I have full faith in his ability.
‘I wanted to wake him up at 6am this morning to give him the good news,’ Coetzee added. ‘When he came down for breakfast at around 7am, I informed him of my decision. His first reaction was, “Are you 100% sure?”. Adriaan is aware of the other leaders in the group, and he wanted to be sure.’
Coetzee said that the decision was always the Bok coach’s to make. He did, however, consult the senior players in camp in Stellenbosch.
‘It was important to Adriaan that I spoke to the senior players,’ said Coetzee. ‘I called in the franchise captains [within the squad], and informed them of the decision. They all pledged their support. It was unanimous. And then at the first training session, it was great to see how the players young and old responded to his leadership.’
Strauss said that the respect of his fellow teammates means a lot to him. The 30-year-old hooker has been appointed for the duration of the series against Ireland. There is a strong chance, as Coetzee confirmed on Monday, that Strauss may retain the position for the rest of the season.
‘It’s a massive honour,’ said Strauss. ‘I spoke to Allister, and I asked him if he believed it was the best decision for the team. That was important to me. The players have accepted it, and I’m feeling very excited about the challenge that lies ahead.’
Strauss has been part of the Bok leadership group since 2013. He shared the vice-captaincy with Bismarck du Plessis in 2013 and 2014, and feels that he has learned a lot by playing under leaders such as John Smit and Jean de Villiers over the course of his 54-Test career.
‘I played my first Test in 2008. John Smit was injured at the time, but I did get a chance to chat to him and see how he interacted with the team,’ said Strauss. ‘What struck me about him was the way the players respected him as a leader.
‘We had a chat to the leadership group today. There are a lot of capable leaders in the squad that I will be counting on over the next few games, as well as some of those senior players who are based overseas [and will be joining the squad at a later stage]. I’m fortunate to have their backing, as well as the trust of the coach. I hope to do them and South Africa proud.’
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