Big day looming for captain when Boks play All Blacks in Durban
Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss had stressed that there would be no bells and whistles around his final appearance for the Boks at Loftus Versfeld‚ but it could be a different story when he plays his last match in the green and gold on home soil against the All Blacks in Durban on Saturday.
The Boks take on New Zealand‚ who have already been crowned Rugby Championship champs this year‚ at Kings Park this weekend as the southern hemisphere competition reaches its end.
The South African side has often seemed undercooked this season as coach Allister Coetzee attempts to rebuild the side after taking over shortly before the mid-year tests.
In the Rugby Championship‚ the Boks have only managed two victories – against Argentina and Australia‚ but failed to claim any wins away from home after defeats to Los Pumas‚ the Wallabies and All Blacks.
As a result of the under-performances‚ Strauss has found himself in the firing line of the harshest critics‚ with his own individual performances often coming under the microscope.
The 30-year-old answered in impeccable fashion on Saturday at Loftus in the 18-10 win against the Wallabies‚ in his swan song in front of the Pretoria crowd that largely supports his provincial side‚ the Bulls.
Although Strauss went into the match wanting not to get emotional about the occasion of playing his final match at the ground where his professional career began‚ with a twinkle in his eyes‚ he admitted to the emotions that flooded him after the Boks had claimed the victory.
“Before the game‚ I said there would be no emotions. I put all emotions aside and focused on the process and what we needed to do‚” Strauss said.
“The moment that final whistle went‚ it was very emotional for me. It was a massive day for me – [playing] where I started by Super Rugby and Currie Cup career.”
The 57th Bok captain announced last month that he would be hanging up his international boots at the end of the year‚ meaning he will feature in his last Springbok outing when the side travels to Europe for the end-of-the-year tour to the United Kingdom and Italy.
Since the announcement‚ Strauss has been widely criticised for the decision with some quarters even questioning his loyalty to the Bok team.
“It’s sad [for people] to say you doubt [my] commitment‚” Strauss said‚ with a lump in his throat.
“There will never be [doubt] in my mind. I will always do things for the right reasons‚ no doubt about that. The team will always come first.”
“I made the decision [to retire] with the team in mind. I think the last three games have got better‚ but I am my own biggest critic.”
Strauss will no doubt want to prove his worth with yet another stellar performance against the New Zealanders on Saturday.
Coetzee also stressed the importance of having the captain on the field.
“Adriaan is a captain that has been under a helluva lot of criticism. We saw the value of his leadership at scrum time‚” the Bok coach said.