Strauss the right man to lead Springboks

Date published: June 3 2016

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Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee deserves praise for his decision to award his team's captaincy to veteran hooker Adriaan Strauss.

Strauss has come through the ranks in the South African system, having represented the South African Schools team in 2003 as well as the SA U19 and U21 sides in 2004 and 2006 respectively.

Since then he has been a regular, and highly respected, member of the Springbok squad since making his Test debut in 2008, alternating with Bismarck du Plessis in the number two jersey in recent years for the two-time world champions.

Speaking at a Springbok media briefing in Stellenbosch earlier this week Strauss highlighted the importance of his new role, and judging from his comments he is determined to make his fellow South Africans proud by leading the Boks into a new era.

"For me the Bok always comes first and it has to be in the best interest of the team," he said.

"The Springbok means a lot to the people of South Africa. We, as players, are very proud, and very excited to play for the Boks.

"We play for every single person out there supporting the Boks, every single South African and we want to make the supporters proud.

"As a group we decided to get together and play good rugby, winning rugby and will try make the people out there proud of us."

Hindsight is said to be the perfect science, but if one looks at the squad of players selected by Coetzee, Strauss was always the favourite to lead his country in their three-Test series against Ireland later this month.

By naming the uncapped Stormers duo of Scarra Ntubeni and Bongi Mbonambi in his squad, Coetzee was giving a clear indication that Strauss is his first-choice number two and due to start in all three Tests.

The 30-year-old's strongest challengers for the captaincy role appear to have been Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw and Pat Lambie.

All three are less experienced than Strauss and the former duo seem to have ruled themselves out because they are plying their trade overseas, while Lambie is unlikely to start in all three Tests against Ireland as the in-form Elton Jantjies – despite being injured for the first two Tests – has also been included in the squad.

Strauss has led the Bulls – and his former franchise, the Cheetahs – with distinction and after coming off the bench, as a replacement for Du Plessis, in most of his previous 54 Tests, the Springbok captaincy is just reward for a player who is renowned for always putting his body on the line for his country.

Judging from the reactions of the rugby-loving public in South Africa, and former Springbok players, Coetzee has picked the right man to lead his troops into battle.

Former Bok fly-half Joel Stransky is amongst those who believe Coetzee made the right choice in picking the Bulls stalwart as his leader.

"I like the fact that Adriaan is captain," he told SA Rugby Mag.

"I have been a little concerned before about having a front-row player as captain because every coach makes changes in the front row with 20-25 minutes left and hooker is one of those changes.

"But in the modern era, with so many natural leaders, it's not too much of a concern. Adriaan is a super guy, a great player and a great leader.

"I’m very chuffed for him."

Strauss has shown during his stint as Bulls skipper that he is cool, calm and collected in pressure situations and is also one of the best players in his position in the world.

Those attributes are difficult to argue against when choosing a captain at Test level and don't be surprised if Coetzee decides to make the Bloemfontein-born man's tenure as the Boks' on-field leader a permanent one at the end of their series against Ireland.

By David Skippers

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