Springboks legend backs Rassie Erasmus to solve captaincy conundrum

David Skippers
Rassie Erasmus and Siya Kolisi Springboks 2021 - Alamy.jpg

Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus and captain Siya Kolisi.

The conundrum over the Springbok captaincy and whether Siya Kolisi will continue in the role or whether a new skipper will lead the team is not a new situation for South Africa’s national head coach.

That was the word from former Springbok skipper John Smit who said ex-Springboks head coach Peter de Villiers often had to answer questions on whether he should remain as the Boks’ skipper ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

However, De Villiers remained loyal to Smit and picked him as the Boks‘ leader for the global showpiece in New Zealand after he lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in France in 2007.

And Smit believes current Bok head coach Rassie Erasmus has dealt with similar situations before and will use that knowledge when deciding whether Kolisi should continue in the leadership role.

Change in leadership is possible

The 32-year-old back-row, who led South Africa to back-to-back World Cup titles, is currently plying his trade in France with Racing 92 and Erasmus has hinted that there might be a changing of the guard as he would prefer this captain to be based in South Africa.

However, Erasmus added that Kolisi is delivering excellent performances, which is creating some uncertainty over the decision on the Bok captaincy going forward.

“Siya is playing some of his best rugby, but I prefer to have my captain locally based as that allows for more interaction,” Erasmus told reporters last month.

“This is a unique situation, and I think he (Kolisi) will play some Test matches; he certainly wants to, but we are not sure about the captaincy.”

Rapport reported recently that the Boks are waiting for Racing 92’s assurance that he will release Kolisi for his Bok obligations. If that happens, then Erasmus can retain Kolisi as the four-time world champions’ skipper.

“I’m a huge fan of Siya and he still has a lot to offer South Africa. And Rassie made it clear that he also believes that,” Smit told Rapport during a United Rugby Championship media session.

Siya Kolisi is playing his ‘best rugby’ but Rassie Erasmus ‘not sure about’ Springboks captaincy

“But Rassie is also the guy who has to make the difficult decisions.

“Peter de Villiers was in exactly the same position with me from 2007 to the 2011 World Cups. One can remember the pressure he was under. He had to answer the question at almost every media conference about whether I am too old to lead the team in 2011.

“Rassie has seen the movie several times and he is preparing us for change. He might change things or he might decide not to.”

Smit, who represented South Africa in 111 Tests, also played for Clermont-Auvergne in France for a year after the Boks’ 2007 World Cup triumph before returning to South Africa to continue his stint as the world champions’ skipper.

He originally played at hooker but was shifted to tighthead prop during the latter stages of his career but despite the positional switch, De Villiers retained him as the Boks’ captain until his retirement after the 2011 World Cup.

Smit said Erasmus is shrewd and if he says something to the media, he has a plan with it.

“He is either busy trying to get Siya back (in South Africa) or he is preparing the country that Siya might not be captain in every game,” added the 45-year-old.

Kolisi might return to South Africa

Smit also believes Kolisi might return to South Africa after completing his three-year deal with Racing 92.

“One thing I know for sure is that none of us would make a lot of money by predicting exactly what Rassie is going to do,” he said.

“He is always one step ahead of the rest and calculated in everything he does.”

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