The embattled Bulls now have their third captain in the 2017 Super Rugby campaign.
But, insists team management, it’s not because they’ve become impatient with Adriaan Strauss’ poor form this year.
The former Springbok skipper had earlier this week been expected to be dropped though that speculation is now a moot point because he’s picked up a foot injury.
As a result, 21-year-old eighthman Hanro Liebenberg will now take the reigns for Saturday’s match against the Highlanders at Loftus.
“I’m unsure if Adriaan would’ve played had he been fit,” said coach Nollis Marais on Thursday.
“The decision was taken out of my hands by his injury. I’ve said from the beginning that guys like Jaco Visagie and Edgar Marutlulle would need to be given starts at some stage. We need to start given the other guys some exposure against the New Zealand sides.”
Despite the possibility that Strauss wouldn’t have played anyway, Marais rejects any notion that he singled out his veteran hooker for his indifferent showings.
“I’m not happy with the way anyone is playing at the moment,” said the Bulls mentor.
“The results show us that. To single out one person is not going to be fair to Adriaan or anyone else. We as a leadership group haven’t performed well enough, especially last week. That’s it. There’s nothing else to it.”
Nonetheless, throwing rookie Liebenberg into the deep end after last week’s 62-24 drubbing at the hands of the Crusaders seems like a panicky move.
“Hanro was going to be my captain going forward later this season,” said Marais.
“He’s an excellent leader and he’s come a long way with me. I believe he’s the future of his union.”
Liebenberg himself seems calm about his new responsibility.
“I don’t see the captaincy as a burden, especially given the context,” said the former Junior Springbok.
“There are quality guys out on the field with me. It’s my job to get the best out of them.”