Strauss ends career on own terms

TESTING TIME: Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss answered his critics with a stellar performance against Australia at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX
TESTING TIME: Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss answered his critics with a stellar
performance against Australia at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX

It is probably more a sense of relief than sadness that Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss will feel when he bows out of the international game against Wales on Saturday.

The 31-year-old, who was appointed the 57th Springbok captain in May, will make his 66th and final test appearance at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, ending an eight-year international career.

Strauss could not have envisaged how difficult this year would turn out to be for both himself and the team when he accepted coach Allister Coetzee’s offer of the captaincy.

Eleven tests as skipper and the Boks have a 36% winning ratio, which is the lowest of any captain with more than 10 tests in charge.

At the time, Coetzee’s decision seemed logical because the only other two obvious candidates for the job were Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw – both based at foreign clubs.

But the decision began to appear like a poor one when Strauss announced his retirement from the test arena less than four months after accepting the captaincy.

According to Strauss and Coetzee, it was a decision that was discussed from the outset.

If true, it raises further uncomfortable questions about Coetzee’s decision-making.

In a season where building the core of a team with an eye on Rugby World Cup 2019 was paramount, starting with a captain already thinking about retirement was not helpful.

Strauss is an honourable man and at times this season it has been painful watching him trying to make sense of yet another Springbok low point.

Last week’s 20-18 defeat against Italy in Florence was particularly brutal.

Like all players, there is no lack of courage or commitment to the Bok cause and as ever he put the team first when asked about his emotions this week.

“I don’t see it as my last week. To me, it is another test and that means it’s the biggest game of my life – that’s the approach I have,” Strauss said.

“We have a lot to prove as a team and we have a big week after what’s happened. “I will feel the emotion afterwards, especially due to the situation we are in because we have a huge task in front of us [beating Wales]. “There isn’t space for personal emotion at this stage.”

Unusually, Strauss is leaving the game on his terms.

It is seldom, in a sport as physically demanding as rugby, that a player chooses a time to walk away and is able to exit at the planned off-ramp. Strauss has been a great servant of the game.

“I’m still happy with my decision to retire because I did it for the right reasons,” he said.

“Of course, I thought my last year might end a bit differently because it has been disappointing in terms of results.”

“I’m also disappointed in myself and take responsibility as captain.”

“But that is why I’m also looking forward to playing Wales, so that we can try end the season on a high.”

Strauss refused to be drawn into the significance and even poignancy of this last test.

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