A look back at Springbok captains at the Rugby World Cup

Siya Kolisi will become the sixth man to lead the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup when the men in green and gold march on to the field against the All Blacks on Saturday.

South Africa is making a seventh appearance in the global showpiece event, in pursuit of a third title.

So far, five men have assumed captaincy duties for the Boks ahead of the big tournament, with two returning with the prized Webb-Ellis trophy.

We take a look at the previous leaders, who have been entrusted to carry the hopes of the nation.

Francois Pienaar: Springbok captain in 1995 – champions

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South African rugby team captain, Francois Pienaar (R), is congratulated by South African President Nelson Mandela (L) after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand 24 June 1995 in Johannesburg. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE MULLER

Legendary flanker Francois Pienaar features in one of sport’s most iconic images, seen alongside the great Nelson Mandela, hoisting the Webb-Ellis trophy.

Pienaar led the Springboks in their maiden World Cup campaign, where they claimed the big prize at first try.

Joost van der Westhuizen: 1999 – third place

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Joost van der Westhuizen in ction for South Africa during the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Getty Images

Four years after the historic triumph of the famous “Class of ’95”, the men in green were led by another member of that great squad in scrumhalf, Joost van der Westhuizen.

The Blue Bulls legend led the Boks to the last four of the competition, where they were eliminated by Australia through a last-gasp drop-goal from Stephen Larkham.

They eventually finished third in the tournament – after beating the All Blacks in the third-place playoff – with the Wallabies crowned champions.

Corne Krige: 2003 – quarterfinals

Another flanker was entrusted with the armband in 2003, with Western Province’s Corne Krige leading the Springboks in the showpiece event held in Australia.

At the time, South African rugby was at a steady decline and was not helped by the controversy which marred the lead-up to the tournament. Remember Kamp Staaldraad?

On the field, the Springboks were outclassed by England in the Pool stage but made it to the quarterfinals where they were no match for the All Blacks after another Carlos Spencer masterclass.

John Smit: 2007 – champions

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South Africa’s rugby union national team captain and hooker John Smit smiles near the Webb Ellis cup during a press conference 21 October 2007 at the team hotel in Paris. South Africa won the Rugby World Cup final match against England, 20 October, 15 to 6. AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

As things stand, the last man to lead the Boks to World Cup glory is John Smit, who was given full-time captaincy after the arrival of coach Jake White in 2004.

The Springboks went into the tournament in France among the favourites, and exacted revenge on England in emphatic fashion by delivering a 36-0 drubbing in the group stage.

The two nations would meet again in the final, and it was the men in green and gold who would again emerge victorious, winning 15-6 in Paris.

John Smit: 2011 – quarterfinal

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John Smit is the only man to have gone to two World Cups as Springboks squad captain, as he was again entrusted with leadership as the showpiece went to New Zealand.

However, he could not repeat the feat as South Africa failed to make it past the quarterfinals. 

Jean de Villiers: 2015 – third place

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BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 25: Jean de Villiers (captain) during the South African national rugby team Captains Run at Villa Park on September 25, 2015 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Another World Cup winner to have led the Boks is centre Jean de Villiers, who saw the team to a third-place finish in the most recent edition.

The 2015 tournament also saw Victor Matfield take charge of some matches, with De Villiers sidelined by injury.

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