Retaining Siya Kolisi as Springbok captain an easy decision for coach Rassie Erasmus

06 August 2018 - 15:42 By Craig Ray
Rassie Erasmus, Coach of South Africa during the 2018 Rugby International, South Africa Training Session at Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town on 19 June 2018.
Rassie Erasmus, Coach of South Africa during the 2018 Rugby International, South Africa Training Session at Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town on 19 June 2018.
Image: ©Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said it was an easy decision to retain Siya Kolisi as captain for the Rugby Championship‚ which starts against Argentina on August 18.

Kolisi captained the Boks to a 2-1 series win over England in June and was initially only appointed for that series.

But when Erasmus named his 35-man squad for the Championship‚ Kolisi was elected captain over returning former captains Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth.

Kolisi became the first black African to captain the Boks in a Test match and his appointment‚ while celebrated‚ also came with a lot of emotion and pressure on the 27-year-old’s shoulders.

“It was a no-brainer decision for me and there was no doubt in my mind that Siya would continue as captain‚” Erasmus said.

“After the relative success we had against England‚ and I have to say we weren’t world-beaters‚ Siya did a good job.

“The way he carried himself through a lot of emotional moments was impressive. It wasn’t negative emotion‚ but he had a lot of emotional things on his shoulders and he dealt with it well.

“He also played relatively well but I believe you’ll see a different‚ better Siya in the Rugby Championships. He will start playing really well‚ if I could put it like that‚ if his performances at our training camps over the past few weeks are anything to go by.

“The fanfare around the captaincy has died down now and he can focus on his game.”

With the inclusion of two genuine opensiders in the experienced Francois Louw as well as the uncapped Marco van Staden‚ the Bok back row might have a different look.

Erasmus made it clear that Kolisi was a guaranteed starter‚ although he might not necessarily start in the No 6 shirt.

Van Staden was set to start for the Boks against England in June before injury in the Bulls’ final Super Rugby match before the international season started‚ ruled him out of the series.

“We will change the loose trio based on the opposition‚” Erasmus said. “Against certain teams we will need more players attacking the ball and contesting on the ground.

“Flo played a wonderful Test at No 8 against the All Blacks at Newlands last year and we could look at him there. He is versatile.

“Siya has taught himself the role of openside and has focused on that. He is brilliant over the ball and a goo counter-rucker‚ but he is not the best at poaching or slowing the ball.

“But he is a good lineout option and we could try him at blindside flank. He has also played at No 8 before and there is one thing for sure‚ he will always start because he is the captain. But I can say with certainty he will play a few games as blindside flank.”

Etzebeth has not played a minute of rugby in 2018 after a serious shoulder injury sustained against Wales in Cardiff last November.

But Erasmus is confident he will be fit to play after the 67-Test veteran completed all the training at the Bok camp.

“Eben has been with us for nearly a month and is functionally one of the fittest guys in the squad‚” Erasmus said.

“But we still have to get the final medical box ticked with the specialist clearing him.

"If that happens I will select him straight away. His lack of game time doesn’t worry me at all.”

Springbok squad:

Forwards: Cyle Brink‚ Jean-Luc du Preez‚ Thomas du Toit‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Eben Etzebeth‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Siya Kolisi (captain)‚ Francois Louw‚ Wilco Louw‚ Frans Malherbe‚ Malcolm Marx‚ Bongi Mbonambi‚ Franco Mostert‚ Tendai Mtawarira‚ Sikhumbuzo Notshe‚ Marvin Orie‚ RG Snyman‚ Akker van der Merwe‚ Marco van Staden‚ Warren Whiteley.

Backs: Lukhanyo Am‚ Ross Cronjé‚ Francois de Klerk‚ Aphiwe Dyantyi‚ André Esterhuizen‚ Elton Jantjies‚ Jesse Kriel‚ Willie le Roux‚ Makazole Mapimpi‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Lwazi Mvovo‚ Embrose Papier‚ Handré Pollard‚ Ivan van Zyl‚ Damian Willemse.