Port Elizabeth – Before Adriaan Strauss could answer whether he thought he had done well enough in his “job interview” in the series against Ireland to become the permanent Springbok captain, coach Allister Coetzee interrupted and confirmed that the Bulls No 2 will be in charge of South Africa for the remainder of 2016.
Strauss has come in for a lot of stick for his general play and leadership ability after the first two Tests. But his teammates and Coetzee have continued to back him, even though fans have called for France-based Bismarck du Plessis to return to the fold, while the Lions’ Malcolm Marx has also put his hand up with good performances in Super Rugby and for the SA A side.
Strauss has always been a good player, but on Saturday he kept the team together when the Irish attacked them with all they had. While his set-piece play will never be questioned, he really stepped up in all other departments on Saturday as well.
“It’s little things that maybe go unnoticed and that is what Adriaan brings to the team. And also his calm and collectedness when it comes to decision making. He’s got a great demeanour of handling everyone’s input,” Coetzee said.
“Adriaan has been appointed as captain for the rest of the year.”
The coach also praised his senior players and the assistance they provided Strauss over the last three weeks. Most of those players also came in for a lot of stick.
Players like tighthead Frans Malherbe and wing JP Pietersen put in great shifts in the 19-13 victory at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. And Coetzee didn’t hesitate to highlight their performances in the third Test.
“I’m unbelievably proud of Adriaan and his leadership and the senior players around him, which I call to the captain’s group,” Coetzee said.
“We are busy starting a new culture, and these players have four years to develop this character. South Africa is a dynamic country, and you can’t operate with the old Springbok culture of 10 years ago.
“The senior players are first on the training field and they are first in front of the computer to do their homework.
“I’m really looking forward to the Rugby Championship and see how this young team can grow with the senior players.”
After Strauss was awarded the captaincy, it was always going to be hard for second-choice hooker Bongi Mbonambi to get some game time in the three Tests. He eventually got his chance in the 78th minute on Saturday, and was proud to be able to finally don his Bok blazer – allowed only once a player has actually seen action in a game.
“We are not allowed to wear at this moment, but later tonight we can,” Mbonambi said before he and prop Steven Kitshoff and flank Jaco Kriel were capped at a ceremony after the match.
“What I saw in the week, with the other guys that got their caps, you feel like that outsider. You also want to be apart of that.
“It took a bit of patience to experience it, but you have got to understand it, playing behind your captain. When Atta (Strauss) was announced as the captain, I knew my patience was going to be tested.