Erasmus said that he would make an announcement on his captain today, but he didn’t clarify whether he’d name one team leader or two captains.
The next important item on Rassie Erasmus’s agenda is to name his Springbok captain – but will that be one captain or two captains?
Erasmus (pictured) is expected to provide the answer today when he has his 43-man squad together for the first time ahead of Saturday’s one-off Test against Wales in Washington and the three-Test series against England.
Last year’s captains Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth will both sit out the four Tests because of injury.
Will Siya Kolisi become SA’s first black captain, or will Erasmus turn to the experienced former Stormers skipper, Duane Vermeulen, who has played for Toulon in France for the last few seasons?
The other captaincy candidate is the Bulls’ young flyhalf and a former Junior Boks leader, Handré Pollard.
Erasmus said on Saturday that he would make an announcement on his captain today, but he didn’t clarify whether he’d name one team leader or two captains.
It is possible Erasmus will name a leader for this week’s match against Wales which falls outside the international Test window and won’t include any of the five overseas-based men he’s picked, as well as a captain who’ll stay behind in South Africa to prepare for the three Tests against England.
Only 26 players out of the 43 will travel to the USA, on Thursday.
Kolisi, with 28 caps and one of the Boks’ most consistent performers in the underwhelming Allister Coetzee era, is the favourite for the full-time job among many rugby followers.
But, Vermeulen, the 39-Test cap man, also has his supporters and, like Kolisi, can play in any position in the backrow and will be viewed as a key ball-poacher in the absence of Malcolm Marx.
Following this weekend’s match Erasmus will trim his squad to a more manageable size, which will include all the overseas men – loose-forward Vermeulen, utility back Willie le Roux, centre Frans Steyn, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and hooker Bismarck du Plessis.
They are expected to feature prominently against England.
The squad includes 17 uncapped players, among them exciting and in-form wings Makazole Mapimpi and Aphiwe Dyantyi, centre Laukhanyo Am, scrumhalves Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl and Cameron Wright, locks RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins and props Thomas du Toit and Ox Nche.
In all there are 19 black players in the squad, a major boost for transformation of the national side.
Players who weren’t considered because of injury include Whiteley and Etzebeth, hooker Marx and prop Coenie Oosthuizen.
There was also no place in Erasmus’ squad for several Lions players who were regulars in former coach Coetzee’s sides of the last two years, like tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer, scrumhalf Ross Cronjé (who is just back from injury), fullback Andries Coetzee, winger Ruan Combrinck and centre Lionel Mapoe.
Injured winger Courtnall Skosan was not considered and neither was flanker Jaco Kriel.
The Stormers’ Dillyn Leyds, one of the form outside backs in South Africa this year and a player considered to have X-factor, and his franchise wing partner Raymond Rhule also missed out on selection in the squad.
The Boks will train in Joburg until Thursday before the squad to face Wales flies out to the USA.
The matches against England, in Joburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town, follow on back-to-back weekends.
Fullbacks/utility: Curwin Bosch, Willie le Roux, Warrick Gelant
Wings: Travis Ismaiel, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Makazole Mapimpi, S’bu Nkosi
Centres: Lukhanyo Am, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, André Esterhuizen, Frans Steyn
Flyhalves: Handré Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Rob du Preez
Scrumhalves: Faf de Klerk, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Cameron Wright
Loose-forwards: Duane Vermeulen, Nizaam Carr, Kwagga Smith, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Oupa Mohoje, Siya Kolisi, Jean-Luc du Preez, Dan du Preez
Locks: RG Snyman, Marvin Orie, Franco Mostert, Jason Jenkins, Pieter-Steph du Toit
Props: Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane
Hookers: Bismarck du Plessis, Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Akker van der Merwe