The Cheetahs have become the third local franchise to name a new Super Rugby captain as they replaced one ‘Francois’ with another ‘Francois’ as their captain as they resumed their preparations in anticipation of the kickoff of the newly formed Super Rugby’s challenge next month.
Centre Francois Venter, at one stage strongly tipped for a World Cup berth last year, has been named by coach Franco Smith to take over the captaincy duties from lock Francois Uys who has been an inspirational skipper for the Free Staters over the last couple of seasons.
Venter, 24, occasionally captained the Cheetahs during last season’s Currie Cup competition when Uys was not available due to injury, but this time around it has been rubberstamped as a more permanent and long lasting venture by Smith who will enter his first full tenure as head coach after taking over from Naka Drotske for the last two Super matches last season against the Stormers and the Bulls.
With the Cheetahs naming their skipper they follow in the footsteps of other franchises who will also field new captains with flyhalf Pat Lambie named at the Sharks and former Cheetah talisman hooker Adriaan Strauss named as the Bulls new skipper.
The Stormers will have the luxury of choosing between centre Juan de Jongh and No 8 Nizaam Carr to take over from the departed No 8 Duane Vermeulen who missed the last few games of their previous campaign before announcing he will join Toulon following the World Cup campaign.
With a new coach at the helm in the form of Robbie Fleck, De Jongh has build up a good working relationship with the former Bok midfielder and seems the obvious choice with Carr fulfilling the duties of vice-captain, although veteran Bok flanker Schalk Burger is due back from Japan and will enjoy his final Super campaign before joining Bath in August.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann will face a tough call who to name captain between flanker Jaco Kriel and No 8 Warren Whiteley which could mean they could share the leadership duties during the long campaign.
Kriel steered the team to the Currie Cup title last year against Western Province en route to a sensational unbeaten run, but Whiteley captained them in last year’s Super Rugby during which they just fell short by three points to qualify for their first qualifying spot.
The Kings will also have a new captain after flank Luke Watson was not offered a new contract but despite the well documented financial dark clouds they have lured several players including a former captain in lock Steven Sykes back from the Cheetahs as well as promising Sharks hooker Monde Hadebe.
*The Cheetahs kick off their campaign on February 27 in Bloemfontein against the Jaguares, the newly former Argentinian franchise, followed by another home clash against the Stormers.