Right, so we've presented Peter de Villiers's potential replacements as Springbok coach. But who, then, will captain the Boks in their first Test outing under this new coach in 2012?
The reality is that the loss of John Smit - despite the presence of Bismarck du Plessis - leaves a gaping hole in terms of the Bok captaincy with no obvious candidates for the jobs.
Having captained South Africa in 83 of his 111 Tests, Smit will go down as one of the world's greatest ever international captains and rightly so.
Of course, it's not just the loss of Smit that will affect the Boks - and indeed their new coach next year - with fellow leaders like Victor Matfield (110 Tests) and Fourie du Preez (62 Tests) also taking plenty of experience into retirement and to Japan, respectively.
The obvious candidates - in terms of Bok experience - to take over from Smit would be loose forwards Schalk Burger and Juan Smith, whilst we have also cast our eye across the provincial scene in South Africa; from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth...
With all of that in mind, we take a look at the potential contenders as John Smit's replacement:
(In alphabetical order)
One of South Africa's star performers at the recent World Cup, Burger is one of the most recognisable players in Springbok rugby. Experienced - with 68 Test caps - and popular within the squad, given his no-holds barred approach, Burger would have to be one of the favourites - especially if Allister Coetzee were to get the coaching job.
Pros: There is no doubt that he would be the people's choice. He boasts plenty of Test experience and, of course, has played at three World Cups.
Cons: Does he have a fourth World Cup in his already over-used and over-played body? WP (2010 Currie Cup Final) and the Stormers (Super Rugby Final 2010; semifinals 2011) have bombed under his leadership in crucial matches and his tactics seemed a bit behind the eight-ball at crucial moments.
At 26 years old, Daniel fits the bill in terms of age... but he has played just one Test for the Boks - against Ireland last year - and is yet to establish himself in the Bok mix.
Pros: Very energetic and has done a good job leading a Springbok-less Sharks squad during the World Cup.
Cons: Not assured of even making the enlarged squad - nevermind the starting XV. He can be a bit hot-headed at times, too.
JEAN DE VILLIERS:
A strong presence within the Springbok leadership group since 2004, when Smit first took over the captaincy, De Villiers has been there and - injuries aside - done it all.
Pros: He has captained Western Province and the Stormers with relative success. He reads the game well and has excellent media skills.
Cons: Injury-prone and, with the emergence of Frans Steyn at inside centre once again, will he be SA's first-choice inside centre next year?
This man was born to led, with his school coaches at Pretoria Boys High putting him in the same bracket as his predecessor John Smit in terms of his abilities as a captain.
Pros: He has captained his country at Under-19, U21 and senior level - an invitational match for South Africa in 2006 - and should get the Bulls' Super Rugby captaincy next year
Cons: He is not a better hooker than Bismarck du Plessis, despite showing some good form this year, so is a definite non-starter one would have to say. That said, he does need the opportunity to develop a bit more at Test level next year - even with Du Plessis around.
The most underrated member of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad, Smith was sorely missed in New Zealand. A hard-working blindside flank, who does not shirk his responsibilities in any aspect of play.
Pros: Experience (69 Test caps) and, if fit, he picks himself in the Bok team - despite the presence of Burger and Brüssow.
Cons: How long will it take for him to regain his best form after his Achilles injury? Is he a natural leader? Captaining the Cheetahs is one thing... will he enjoy the extra media attention and responsibilities?
An outside choice, but he makes it onto our list for his superb leadership in the Currie Cup this season.
Pros: The Cheetahs have been in fine form under his leadership this year and he has been the form hooker in the 2011 Currie Cup.
Cons: Not a better option than Du Plessis at hooker - ok, who is?! - and the presence of Ralepelle, a more experienced option in terms of Test caps, will also block his way into the squad.
Like his namesake, the bearded one deserves a mention here, simply for his form in the Currie Cup.
Pros: He has led the Lions to first position on the log in the Currie Cup and within an inch of a first Currie Cup title since 1999.
Cons: Is he a better playing option than Smith, Burger, Brüssow, Spies, Francois Louw and Willem Alberts?
Love him or hate him... it's hard to ignore Watson's claims when it comes to captaincy - purely because he tries to inspire those around him and he leads from the front.
Pros: People in Bath are still talking about his influence. He has plenty of experience and is playing for - and captaining - the 'people's team' in Port Elizabeth. (Did anyone say political choice?)
Cons: Would the sign of a Green & Gold jersey still make him nauseous? Would the country have forgiven him for that outburst by now? Is he good enough to force his way into the Bok starting XV?
Our final verdict:
A captain has to be assured of his place in the starting XV. There is no doubt that Allister Coetzee would make Schalk Burger his captain - were he to become Bok coach - whilst Smith, if fit, has his claims as an assured starter. Would that then mean leaving Heinrich Brüssow out next year? One would have to assume that the captaincy and a starting berth could be between Burger and Smith come next year.
By Howard Kahn
* What do you think? Who would YOUR pick be as the new Bok captain?
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