Warren Whiteley led South Africa onto the field of battle against France this weekend and in doing so became the 58th Springbok captain and the 18th post isolation. As my own knowledge and support of the sport only covers the post isolation period, I have decided to pick my five favourite Springbok Captains in this era. I would love to hear yours.
5 Joost van der Westhuizen
Although Joost may have been one of my favourite players, he was not necessarily my favourite captain, but he was the man selected to lead the team at the 1999 Rugby World Cup after the controversial axing of Gary Teichmann (See below). That Joost, hero from 1995, led us to the World Cup Semi-Final where Steven Larkham knocked us out with the kind of drop goal that he would miss more often than not, is a testament to a decent captain who led from the front. His three tries at the 1999 World Cup were impressive and we beat New Zealand in the World Cup too.
4 Corne Krige
The Zambian born hard man captained South Africa on his debut when we beat Italy 101-0. It took him another 21 tests before he would captain again leading us to a victory against Argentina and Samoa before it started unravelling. After a disastrous year-end tour where we lost 53-3 to England, it was unsure who would led us in the 2003 World Cup. Joost got a few games, but a poor Tri-Nations didn’t help. In fact his record as captain was pretty average, but hey it’s a list of my favourite players and this was the Rudolph Straueli era so you can’t really blame him too much. Also this led to John Smit’s selection as captain!
3 Gary Teichmann
Though he did not captain the Boks in a World Cup, he led the side to their record winning streak of 17 Test matches in a row during 1997 and 1998. Even though the Springboks won two World Cups in 1995 and 2007, the team Teichmann led was often considered the best in the history of South African rugby for their domination of world rugby. In that record run the Bokke won the 1998 Tri Nations, going unbeaten for the entire campaign, including wins away from home against Australia and a powerful New Zealand team.
In his time at the helm, Teichmann returned at 72 percent winning percentage from 39 Tests. Teichmann played 42 Tests for the Springboks before he was controversially dropped ahead of the 1999 Rugby World Cup where the men in green were defending their title. Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has since admitted he made a mistake axing his captain Gary Teichmann six months before the 1999 World Cup to accommodate Bob Skinstad at No 8.
2 Francois Pienaar
Mr. Lays captained South Africa in every one of the 29 games he played for the Springboks. Included in those 29 games was the amazing run of 14 straight wins including a certain 15-12 win against New Zealand in the World Cup Final. This was a man who led with heart and together with Nelson Mandela played a pivotal role in combining South Africans in post-apartheid era.
1995 is also the only 100% test season in South African rugby post isolation where we won all 10 matches played in the year. Francois started nine of the ten, only resting against Romania.
1 John Smit
Captain courageous, a 112 Test veteran and one of the finest-ever captains in Test rugby. After making his Bok debut in 2000, John Smit played under three coaches before Jake White regarded him as the leader to take the Springboks to higher honours. After the woeful 2003 World Cup campaign, Smit led the Boks with distinction and helped regain the former glory of the green of gold jersey. He was instrumental in leading the Boks to glory in the 2007 World Cup and was the driving force behind the British and Irish Lions series triumph.
Who is your favourite post isolation Springbok captain, have a vote in the poll below (Only included if more than 5 tests captained)