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Bok captain: Is it a given?

The injury-enforced withdrawal of Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has immediately shifted the spotlight onto who will skipper South Africa in June.

De Villiers will miss the June Tests – against a World XV, Wales (twice) and Scotland – with a knee complaint that will sideline him for about two months.

He will hopefully be back for the start of Rugby Championship in August.

Describing the loss of his captain as "a massive setback", Bok coach Heyneke Meyer acknowledged they will miss him next month.

Meyer will name his squad for the June Tests on Saturday (May 31) and is unlikely to reveal the captain before then. In fact he may delay that announcement till later, once the squad for the encounter with the Wold XV (at Newlands on June 7) gathers in Cape Town from Sunday.

That means for the next week the spotlight will shine on those who are genuine candidates – Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), Victor Matfield (Bulls), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Stormers), Schalk Burger (Stormers) and Fourie du Preez (Japan).

Du Plessis, Strauss and Van der Merwe are the regular captains of their franchise teams, but does that make them automatic front-runners?

Matfield has captained the Boks in 17 Tests and Du Preez was also a strong leader under Meyer at the Bulls.

Vermeulen and Burger have both done admirable jobs at the Stormers.

The dark horse could come from abroad, Francois Louw. Although he has been injured, Louw has returned to training and while he is not in the current training squad, he could come into the picture when the final list is revealed on Saturday.

It makes them all strong candidates.

The fact is, Meyer will first name his squad, perhaps even his starting XV for the season-opener at Newlands, before naming a captain.

That means the player MUST make the starting XV and also be a certain choice for the encounters with Wales and Scotland.

Perhaps the coach will rotate the captaincy and a match-by-match basis, but that has never been Meyer's modus operandi.

So who are the certain starters?

Du Plessis is a given, considering Strauss is also facing a disciplinary hearing for a spear tackle executed against the Stormers at the weekend. The Cheetahs skipper may face a ban that could rule him out of some, if not all, the June Tests.

Matfield and Van der Merwe may just be the starting lock partnership at Newlands, given the long list of second row injuries and Meyer's penchant for experience.

Vermeulen is also a good shot at a starting spot, while Burger and Du Preez certainly have some competition in their positions.

Fourie is the most likely of the two to get a starting spot.

Here are the candidates and their track records – in the order Jan de Koning feels they could be ranked!

Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks):

Age: 30

Test summary: Caps – 57

First Test: 7 July 2007 – against Australia, Sydney

Last Test: 23 November 2013 – against France, Paris

Victor Matfield (Bulls):

Age: 37

Test summary: Caps – 110

First Test: 30 June 2001 – against Italy, Port Elizabeth

Last Test: 9 October 2011 – against Australia, Wellington

Fourie du Preez (Japan):

Age: 32

Test summary: Caps – 67 Tries

First Test: 12 June 2004 – against Ireland, Bloemfontein

Last Test: 17 November 2013 – against Scotland, Edinburgh

Francois Louw (Bath):

Age: 28

Test summary: Caps – 28

First Test: 5 June 2010 – against Wales, Cardiff

Last Test: 23 November 2013 – against France, Paris

Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs):

Age: 28

Test summary: Caps – 33

First Test: 19 July 2008 – against Australia, Perth

Last Test: 23 November 2013 – against France, Paris

Flip van der Merwe (Bulls):

Age: 28

Test summary: Caps – 34

First Test: 12 June 2010 – against France, Cape Town

Last Test: 23 November 2013 – against France, Paris

Duane Vermeulen (Stormers)

Age: 27

Test summary: Caps – 16

First Test: 8 September 2012 – against Australia, Perth

Last Test: 23 November 2013 – against France, Paris

Schalk Burger (Stormers).

Age: 31

Test summary: Caps – 68

First Test: 24 October 2003 – against Georgia, Sydney

Last Test: 9 October 2011 – against Australia, Wellington

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