Is Whiteley the new Bok skipper?

Mon, 05 Sep 2016 08:23
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The debate surround Adriaan Strauss' successor as Springbok captain reached fever pitch at the weekend. However, it appears one candidate stands out.

Current Bok skipper Adriaan Strauss last week revealed that he will retire from international rugby at the end of 2016, with Lions captain Warren Whiteley tipped as the man to succeed Strauss.

Not surprising Lions coach Johan Ackermann punted his captain as the new leader of the Springbok herd.

The alternatives - depending on who you speak to - are veterans Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw, as well as younger players like Handré Pollard and Patrick Lambie.

The most sobering observation is that whomever the next Bok captain is, he MUST be appointed through to the 2019 World Cup - meaning he should be a certain starter.

Strauss was handed the captaincy by new Springbok coach Allister Coetzee - initially just for the three-Test Ireland series and then through to the end of the year.

Strauss was not universally accepted (at least not outside the Bok camp), as it was believed he was not the country's best (or most inform) hooker.

It has since transpired that Strauss - by his own account - had been contemplating retiring for some time and Coetzee told the media that he was aware that Strauss was not a long-term option.

In the aftermath of these revelations, the focus shifted to the rather short list of possible replacements.

Ackermann believes the Lions No.8, Whiteley, is the best and most obvious option.

"He [Whiteley] has definitely got the capability, skills and capacity as a leader," Ackermann said.

"It's up to the Springboks management to decide if he is the first-choice No.8 and if he is certain of a position in the team.

"You don't want doubts every week about your captain, so it will depend a lot on how they want to utilise Warren.

"From my experience with him, he is a players' player. They will love him as a captain and he is a quality person on and off the field and also very good with the media," Ackermann added.

Bulls coach Nollis Marais had a slightly different take on the subject.

He is adamant that the new Springbok captain must be the man who will lead the team through to the next World Cup.

"I think that what the Springbok management must do is decide who the captain is for the next four years and start backing that player after Adriaan leaves," Marais said.

"They [Springbok management] need to stick with him [the new captain], it doesn't matter if it [the results] are bad or good.

"If they [again] select someone who is not going to be available in four years' time, I wouldn't agree with that.

"However, that is a decision the coach [Allister Coetzee] must take.

"I say that we must back someone who will take us into the next four years and whoever that is they must just make a decision on that," Marais said.

Marais added that he is grateful to have Strauss available to lead the Bulls in their Super Rugby campaign next season and he praised the Springbok captain's leadership abilities.

"We [Marais and Strauss] spoke the other day before they announced it [his retirement from the Test arena] and obviously for us it's important when he comes back to the Bulls and takes over the captaincy role here.

"He is a good captain and for us [the Bulls] it's good to have him back next year," Marais said.

By Josh Isaacson