Six players who can fill Siya Kolisi’s captaincy gap

Springboks captain siya kolisi rugby world cup eben etzebeth Lukhanyo Am handre pollard eben etzebeth Credit: Alamy

Springboks captain siya kolisi rugby world cup eben etzebeth Lukhanyo Am handre pollard eben etzebeth Credit: Alamy

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi is a doubt for the Rugby World Cup in France with a knee injury.

The 2019 World Cup-winning captain suffered a knee injury against Munster in his last home game for the Sharks.

It has been reported that he could participate in the tournament in France if he opts out of the recommended surgery, but even then, it will be a lifesaver for the world Cup.

It seems certain that at least the majority of rugby league will be missed.

Planet Rugby takes a look at who could captain the Springboks should Kolisi be unable to.

Handre Pollard

THE Springbok flyhalf captained his country for the first time in July against Wales.

A respected entry in the Springbok set-up, Pollard is often listed as the team’s vice-captain.

He is no stranger to the captaincy either, having led the Bulls during his time in Pretoria and captained the SA U20s in 2014.

His position in the starting lineup is in jeopardy, but his improvement in form at Leicester Tigers has catapulted him firmly into the conversation.

Lukhanyo Am

Offering a contrasting leadership style to Pollard is the soft-spoken center.

Am is the cliché of riding from the front and one who would rely on his peers to be more forthright on the court.

However, his initial role is almost guaranteed and he is part of the leadership team.

He is definitely an option for the coaches handing him the armband for South Africa A’s clash with the British and Irish Lions in 2021.

In many ways, Am is a similar leader to Kolisi and would be close to a similar replacement.

Pieter Steph du Toit

The Springbok captain regularly comes from the pack, and while this is a leftist pick, du Toit is a candidate.

Indeed, du Toit was the first Springbok captain Rassie Erasmus chosen to lead the team, doing so in the 2018 test against Wales in Washington.

The 2019 World Player of the Year has had his struggles with injuries and then form, but looked to be back to his best in November.

When fit and shooting, du Toit’s class is undeniable and he is one of the best players in the game.

He’s another player who would lead through his actions, but many Springbok captains have been the same in the past.

Duane Vermeulen

When Kolisi was ruled out of the 2019 rugby league, it was Vermeulen who guided the team to success.

The 36-year-old may no longer be the first man in the squad but he will no doubt leave nothing on the pitch in his final year for the Boks.

While Jasper Wiese looks set to keep the starting number eight shirt, Vermeulen could be brought back into the starting lineup to make up for the loss of Kolisi.

He is also a certainty in the World Cup squad and will lead the team in one way or another on and off the pitch.

He could also play a vital role off the bench for the Boks and could take over the captaincy in the latter stages of matches.

Steven Kitshoff

Having captained the Stormers to their URC title last season, Kitshoff could very well be in the mix.

Front rowers, and more particularly props, these days don’t often captain Test sides as they don’t always play past the hour. But the Springboks have regularly replaced Kolisi before the final whistle in 2019 and could have a substitute or substitute captain on the bench or in the starting XV.

A regular at the Bok Group, Kitshoff is among the best in the world at his position. The fact that he is the team captain means that he should start regularly for the team, giving up his role as a blaster.

If Vermeulen is on the bench, he and Kitshoff could effectively split the role for the full 80 minutes.

Eben Etzabeth

The Test centurion captained South Africa on 12 occasions out of 110 Test matches.

Of course, only one of those times has come since Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber took charge of the Springboks – 2019 against Australia.

He captained the team mostly under Alister Coetzee, and results at the time meant his reign as captain was frowned upon.

However, he is an incredibly influential player who commands respect and is a much smarter player than he is given credit for.

He is another leader in the team and one you would expect not to shy away from responsibility.


Kolisi’s injury is a major blow to the player and a major setback in the Springboks’ preparation for their title defence.

From a pure leadership standpoint, there are worthy substitutes in Vermeulen and Pollard. The pair’s form has been called into question in recent test windows, but they are more than capable of leading the team.

Am is the best of the rest, with his testing experience counting against him compared to the candidates mentioned above.

Du Toit and Kitshoff are long shots but management team players who could actually captain the team in some capacity, even if they don’t have the official title.

Etzebeth has the respect of the playing group and is the most experienced, by Test appearances, of the team. She will be in the conversation and her fitness will play a huge part in the decision.

Expect the Springbok coaches to leave the decision on who will captain the team at the World Cup until the final hour, and it is confirmed that Kolisi will play no part in their title defence.

Relying on the management team and changing captains as they see fit in preparation for the tournament will be their initial plan of action.

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