Springbok captaincy candidates Eben Etzebeth, Lukhanyo Am and Bongi Mbonambi image Oppo Kolisi

Three of the Sharks’ Springboks Eben Etzebeth, Lukhanyo Am and Bongi Mbonambi. Image: Via Oppo.

Springbok captaincy: If not Siya Kolisi, who?

A host of names have been thrown into the hat as candidates to potentially replace Siya Kolisi as Springbok captain. But in reality, only three players tick all the boxes required to qualify for this job.

Springbok captaincy candidates Eben Etzebeth, Lukhanyo Am and Bongi Mbonambi image Oppo Kolisi

Three of the Sharks’ Springboks Eben Etzebeth, Lukhanyo Am and Bongi Mbonambi. Image: Via Oppo.

The Springbok captaincy is potentially up for grabs, so let’s take a look at which players are best-placed to take on this high-pressured job.

Rassie Erasmus dropped a bombshell in Cape Town on Tuesday, when he admitted that he is contemplating whether or not to retain Siya Kolisi as Springbok captain.

You might wonder why Kolisi’s reign as captain is even up for discussion, when he is such an influential figure, not just in rugby but in all of sport and even beyond its realms.

Since the 2023 World Cup concluded, Kolisi has headed abroad to join French club Racing 92, and it has raised the question of whether the Springboks will be able to be led by an overseas-based captain when SA Rugby in general and Rassie Erasmus in particular, have made it an unwritten law to a always have a locally based player lead the Test team.

And if this law in enforced and the Springboks enter the market for a new captain, realistically there are only three players who are qualified to succeed Kolisi.

SPRINGBOK CAPTAINCY CANDIDATES

Eben Etzebeth (lock):

As the third-most capped Springbok of all time and now plying his trade at the Sharks in Durban, there’s no one more qualified to take over captaincy than Etzebeth.

The 32-year-old enforcer is already part of the Springboks’ leadership core and with 119* Test caps to his name coupled with two World Cup winners’ medals, a Lions series win and a Rugby Championship title, Etzebeth is one of the most feared and respected men in world rugby.

Lukhanyo Am (centre):

What would a Springbok captaincy shout be without Am? Unfair, that’s what. Like Etzebeth, he is another who fits the bill perfectly.

Playing his rugby in South Africa (also with the Sharks) and assured of his place in the Springbok lineup for the foreseeable future, this midfield maestro has all the makings of a true leader. His case is helped by the fact that he is Sharks’ team captain.

Bongi Mbonambi (hooker):

Much like Etzebeth and Lukhanyo, Bongi too turns out for the Sharks in South Africa and boasts the same silverware with the Springboks.

Unlike Etzebeth and Lukhanyo, Bongi is not as universally loved by fans as his peers. But that is more to do with his personal and off-field behaviour than his leadership capabilities and contributions on the field.

68 Test deep into his career, Mbonambi is a veteran of Springbok rugby and also has experience of captaining the team.

CANDIDATES INFOGRAPHIC 

NamePositionTest capsTest debut
Eben EtzebethLock 119June 2012
Lukhanyo Am Centre35December 2017
Bongi MbonambiHooker68June 2016

The Springboks have a busy Test season ahead of them, with the first Test taking place in June.

CONFIRMED FIXTURES FOR 2024:

Saturday, 22 June: SA vs Wales (Twickenham, London)
Saturday, 6 July: SA vs Ireland (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, 13 July: SA vs Ireland (Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban)
Saturday, 20 July: SA vs Portugal (Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein)
Saturday, 10 August: Australia vs SA (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
Saturday, 17 August: Australia vs SA (Optus Stadium, Perth)
Saturday, 31 August: SA vs New Zealand (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
Saturday, 7 September: SA vs New Zealand (DHL Stadium, Cape Town)
Saturday, 21 September: Argentina vs SA (venue TBC)
Saturday, 28 September: SA vs Argentina (Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela)
16/17 November: England vs SA (Twickenham, London – date TBC)

Springbok captaincy:  Lukhanyo Am and Siya Kolisi
Springboks Lukhanyo Am and Siya Kolisi. Photo: SA Rugby website.