Cape Town – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says race had no role to play in his decision to appoint Siya Kolisi as captain for the series against England next month.
Kolisi will become the first black player to lead the Springboks in a Test match and when asked if he understood the significance of appointing the first black captain of the team, Erasmus told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday:
“I wouldn’t like to look at it that way. I know Siya is a good leader and I am excited about what he can offer us‚” Erasmus said.
“I coached him since he was 18 years old when he arrived at the Stormers from the Eastern Cape and through the academy until he played for the Stormers.
“I know him as a good rugby player. This year he has gone through some tough times with form as captain of the Stormers but he is a great leader.
“I like him because he is humble‚ he is quiet and the way he is playing at the moment he is not flashy.
“With the breakdown work he is doing in attack‚ the carries and clean-outs‚ he is playing almost like a blindside flanker.”
The Bok mentor also responded to a question regarding “recent events” that may have played a role in his decision to name 20 black players in his 43-man squad.
The “recent events” seemingly refer to the flare-up in the SuperSport studio between former Boks Ashwin Willemse, Nick Mallett and Naas Botha.
Willemse walked off a live broadcast following an apparent disagreement with his fellow presenters. He spoke of being labelled a “quota player” and that he refused to be “patronised by two individuals who played in an apartheid/segregated era”.
Erasmus responded to the question: “Before I was appointed‚ I have always understood all the transformation issues and that they are part of the way we are heading and I have bought into that.
“We are trying to fix all the wrong things that we did in the past. The recent things that happened did not have a bearing on this decision because my contract was signed long before that. The players we have in this squad deserve to be here and I am not trying to fabricate things.”
Erasmus did not confirm whether Kolisi would stay on as captain when Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth return from injury.
“He (Kolisi) is most of the time available and it makes common sense that he is given this responsibility against England with Warren and Eben still out injured‚” he said.
Meanwhile, Pieter-Steph du Toit has been selected as captain for this weekend’s clash with Wales in Washington DC and is someone that Erasmus sees as a potential Springbok captain of the future.
“I just think that for the first match against Wales‚ Pieter-Steph will be a good leader and he is someone who will be a good captain in the future‚” Erasmus added.
“He is not an old guy. He will play for a few more years and the way we want to play against Wales he is the ideal candidate.”