Captain: Bismarck a 'long-term' option
Bismarck du Plessis remains a long-term option as captain of South Africa's national team. Jan de Koning reports from the Springbok camp.
Victor Matfield may be the captain for June and Jean de Villiers will return later this year, but Bismarck du Plessis remains a long-term option as Springbok captain.
Matfield was named to captain the Boks in June, in the absence of the injured De Villiers, and he will lead them out for the first time since his return to the game in Saturday's non-cap international against a Nick Mallett-coached World XV at Newlands on Saturday.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said he I thought "long and hard" about the captaincy issue, but revealed that the Sharks skipper, Du Plessis, was certainly in the running.
"I believe it [captaincy] is a huge responsibility and Jean [de Villiers] has done an excellent job," Meyer said at the team's base in Cape Town, pointing out that De Villiers will reclaim the captaincy once he recovers from his knee injury - most likely for the Rugby Championship in mid-August.
The Bok coach said the fact that he appointed an interim captain played a major role in his thought process.
"I always believed he [Matfield] is one of the best captains ever to have played for South Africa," Meyer said, adding: "The great thing is, when I started two-and-half-years ago there were a lot of youngsters [in the national team] - now there are at least five guys that can lead the team.
"Fourie du Preez can lead the team and also Bismarck du Plessis, especially in the long-term.
"I believe he [Du Plessis] has developed a lot as a leader," the Bok mentor said, adding: "He could be a great captain going forward.
"That is why I named two vice-captains for this [June] series."
Meyer said there is no doubt Du Plessis will get his chance to captain the Boks in the not too distant future.
"I must be honest, if it was a long-term deal Bismarck would have been the captain, because I believe he has really improved as a captain.
"He will be a great captain going forward.
"In saying that, a guy like Duane [Vermeulen] is also improving a lot as a captain and I also believe he can lead South Africa.
"However, it is a short-term decision and as I said Victor has been an unbelievably successful captain and 80 percent of the starting line-up has played with Victor as captain. They respect him. Even at training, he is a natural leader and the respect they have for him is immense."
The coach said De Villiers and Matfield will make a "great combination" going forward.
"He is here to serve the team and that is the type of person Victor is - this [team] is not about prima donnas."
Meyer said because most of the guys who will feature in Saturday's matchday squad have played under Matfield it made the veteran a logical choice ion the short-term.
"He has captained the [Bok] team with distinction before, he is playing great rugby and he deserves his place in the team.
"In the short-term I would have been stupid not to go with somebody who has done it before and I have a lot of confidence in the guy.
"I know Fourie [du Preez] and Bismarck [du Plessis] will help him.
"The great thing is when I spoke to the team they said we [the Boks] are a point in our development now where it doesn't matter who the captain is, they will follow anyone."
Meyer described Matfield as a "true professional" who has regained his best form as a player.
But it is his value as a leader that swung the vote.
"You could see when he captained a young Bull side [this year]. With all due respect to the players and other captains, when he [Matfield] didn't play they didn't do well.
"He is a guy that knows exactly what to do on the field and he is a coach now as well, so he knows all about the pressure of coaching - he is a truly remarkable man.
"I always believe the captain must be a player who is there on merit and a captain who the players can look up to and lead from the front.
"There is no questions that he will be the No.5 lock in these four internationals."
Meyer feels the best of Matfield is yet to come.
Having produced great form with a young Bulls team, the 37-year-old lock will now have some superstars around him.
By Jan de Koning