Du Toit, Vermeulen may lead South Africa in June Tests

Johannesburg (AFP) –


South Africa coach Johan 'Rassie' Erasmus could name two captains Monday for June Tests -- Pieter-Steph du Toit for a one-off game against Wales and Duane Vermeulen for a three-match series with England.

The Springboks face Wales in Washington on June 2 followed by internationals against England in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town on consecutive Saturdays from June 9.

Erasmus is set to name a captain or captains during a press conference in Johannesburg for his first matches in charge since the unsuccessful two-year reign of Allister Coetzee ended.

Vermeulen is a 39-cap number eight who has just quit Toulon and made his presence felt last year when belatedly called up for Tests in France and Italy, both of which South Africa won.

Former South African Rugby Player of the Year Du Toit can play lock or flanker and has starred in Super Rugby this year for a struggling Western Stormers side.

The 32-cap Springbok could be the skipper against Wales because Vermeulen is not available for the opening international of the Springboks season.

Another couple of Springboks named in a 43-man squad this weekend, Handre Pollard and Siya Kolisi, are the local media favourites to fill a role that became vacant due to injuries.

First choice and number eight Warren Whiteley has not recovered from a knee injury sustained two months ago after missing much of the last season owing to a complicated groin problem.

His stand-in, lock Eben Etzebeth, has not played since being hurt last November in an away loss to Wales, the last Test played by South Africa.

A South Africa Rugby insider told AFP that Du Toit and Vermeulen may get the nod ahead of fly-half Pollard and flanker Kolisi.

It is understood that Erasmus wants Pollard and Kolisi to concentrate on their performances without the added burden of leading a country that has won the Rugby World Cup twice.

Pollard is set to replace Elton Jantjies as first-choice playmaker for the England series having impressed for Northern Bulls this year following several injury setbacks.

TV analyst Joel Stransky, whose extra-time drop-goal won the 1995 Rugby World Cup against the New Zealand All Blacks in Johannesburg, does not want Pollard selected as skipper.

"I hope they don't make him Bok captain for the simple reason that he already has enormous responsibility on his shoulders," he said in a Sunday Times interview.

"He is a natural leader and will still be one of the leaders regardless of his title, as the fly-half has to be. I just don't think he needs the Bok captaincy right now."

Kolisi has shown patchy form in a Stormers team that lost their eighth Super Rugby match this season at the weekend.

After two largely disastrous seasons under Coetzee, sixth-ranked South Africa hope to beat Wales, who are one place lower, and then win the series against third-ranked England.