Etzebeth a shoe-in for dawn of new Bok era 

With the announcement that Siya Kolisi will not be captaining the Springboks in their first match after winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the debate as to who should be leading the Boks is reaching fever pitch.  

The likeable skipper, who has a crossover appeal and who was able to use his position to bring South Africans of all hues together, made history when he led the Boks to world cup victory in 2019 in Japan and also in last year’s spectacle in France.  

He was appointed skipper in 2018 by coach Rassie Erasmus.  

It is worth noting that the Zwide-born flanker then crossed the Mediterranean Sea and moved to France, where he joined Racing 92. That does not disqualify him from captaining South Africa, as long as he continues churning out incredible performances in green and gold.  

However, during a recent press conference in Cape Town, Erasmus made it known that while Kolisi does not have a clause in his club contract that prevents him from playing for his country, SA Rugby prefers to have the Bok captain based in the country. 

So, it is highly likely that Kolisi could miss the opening Test of the year against Wales at Twickenham on June 22.  

The Test match falls outside of the official July Test Window, and his French club will not be obliged to release him to the Springboks camp.  

This means that the Springboks will have to find a South African-based player to captain the team in London, and the search has started in earnest.  

Last month, Erasmus gave the guarantee that Kolisi would be considered, although he may not lead the side. 

As part of the plan for the 2027 Rugby World Cup, Erasmus returned to the fore as head coach of the Springboks.  

He ditched his role as director of rugby to return to the touchline. Erasmus, who lifted the World Cup trophy with the Boks in 2019, has hinted that some of the Bok’s old guard will be phased out in the coming years. Close to 20 players at last year’s world cup in France were over the age of 30.  

“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 the media 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. In 2018, we had a roadmap for the players, and we said, ‘Where will this guy be in 2019, 2023, and 2027?’ But it is a challenge to tell a player, ‘OK, you must stop now.’  

“We have guys in their 30s who believe they can win another world cup,” he added.  

The names of Eben Etzebeth, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damien Willemse and Pieter-Steph du Toit have been bandied about to take over the armband.  

Centurion Etzebeth previously served as a full-time captain in 2017 and stood in for an injured Kolisi in 2019 and 2023.  

His towering presence and leadership qualities make him stand head and shoulders above the rest, literally and figuratively.  

Besides being a leading light, Kolisi’s appointment was an excellent marketing tool for roping in black supporters, and it worked like a charm. The gangling Etzebeth may not have the dancing skills, the singing ability or the cross-over pop appeal of Kolisi, but he can take care of his teammates inside the bullring. 

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