Warren Whiteley is not guaranteed the Springbok captaincy against England but the Lions leader will definitely be part of new Bok coach Rassie Erasmus’s leadership group. Erasmus has also confirmed he will pick two very different line-ups to play against Wales in Washington DC and against England in the first Test in Johannesburg a week later.
Erasmus, this week appointed Springbok coach as part of his National Director of Rugby portfolio, wants to keep Lions captain Whiteley in South Africa and will contract the man who captained the Springboks in the first two Tests against the French in 2017.
Whiteley, Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen could be the starting loose-trio against England, and all three are potential captaincy options. All three currently captain their domestic teams, with Kolisi in charge of the Stormers and Vermeulen at the helm with French Top 14’s Toulon.
Eben Etzebeth, if fit, will be the starting lock option but indications are he won’t lead the Springboks if the likes of Whiteley, Kolisi and Vermeulen are available. Etzebeth captained the Springboks in 2017 in Whiteley’s enforced absence.
Erasmus, in addressing the media at various times in the latter part of this week, put a premium on his identification of players with rugby functional intelligence and also those who are as strong mentally as they are physically. Erasmus was confident the natural playing base was good enough among South Africans playing locally and abroad to select a squad good enough to beat Eddie Jones’s England in the June three-Test series.
His challenge would be identifying the leadership group, and he has already learned a lot about players through spending a few days every week with one of the South African four franchises. Erasmus was also at Loftus this past fortnight to first hand experience the Bulls’s two Super Rugby matches.
Whiteley was brilliant for the Lions against the Bulls in what was only his second first class match in eight months.