We love a good debate at Planet Rugby and the question mark hanging over the Springbok captaincy for June has sparked a war of words.
We love a good debate at Planet Rugby. A day after one of our writers call for Bismarck du Plessis to be handed the Springbok captaincy, another is backing Victor Matfield…
Insistence that Bismarck du Plessis be handed the Springbok captaincy in the absence of Jean de Villiers is, ironically, exactly what David Skippers tried to dispel earlier this week – burdensome and ultimately counterproductive.
Heyneke Meyer has placated the media with the suggestion there are “plenty” of candidates – but, genuinely, there is only one man for the job. Meyer's pseudo frontrunners – du Plessis, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen – cannot compete with Victor Matfield.
Surely, Meyer, despite an unwillingness to publicly commit, isn't going to look elsewhere. The bond formed with Matfield at the Bulls is too strong for other mitigating factors to prove otherwise.
Supposition that the 30-year-old Du Plessis' promotion will serve a purpose for June with preparation for next year's World Cup at the top of its agenda lacks perspective. The Springboks are, of course, eager to add to 1995 and 2007's successes, but not necessarily at the expense of 2014's record.
The appointment of the composed, 37-year-old Matfield – rather than the characteristically temperamental Du Plessis – will solidify the immediate momentum required for future gains. The role is temporary, regardless. De Villiers will lead the Boks to England, so rather bank on the level head of the lock now than rely on what the unpredictable hooker might bring.
True, Du Plessis is the current vice-captain. But in the modern era of professionalism and flaky titles, he was never genuinely earmarked to take on the reins in the hypothetical absence of de Villiers. South African Cricket will navigate a similar scenario, if Hashim Amla or Faf du Plessis succeed Graeme Smith ahead of unofficial understudy AB de Villiers. Australian Cricket, too, orchestrated a comparable upturn in leadership expectations last year. Examples are numerous. Rejection of Bismarck du Plessis would not be unprecedented.
Assumption that Meyer's endorsement of Matfield ahead of Du Plessis might negatively affect team morale, too, is untoward. Meyer has been abundantly clear that the squad – the senior members, if not the lesser experienced – will be consulted. Frank conversations will reveal bold opinions, while others will just toe the proverbial line. Neither will be excluded in an open, transparent appointment. Those who didn't express grievances then, will have no room for grievances later.
These are significant times for the Springboks. Jake White is still viewed as the one that got away, the legacy of Peter de Villiers' wobbly tenure is yet to be undone and Meyer has failed to win the public's vote as promptly as anticipated. Promoting Matfield ahead of Du Plessis or any other pretender – for the eight week absence of Jean de Villiers, at least – will go a long way in appeasing the bulk of the conundrum.
By Jonhenry Wilson