Cape Town - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says that Warren Whitely is a strong contender for the national captaincy in June if he can prove his fitness.
The 30-year-old Whiteley, who captained the Boks in two Tests last year until succumbing to a groin injury, is currently sidelined with a knee injury that is putting his international ambitions in doubt.
South Africa play Wales in Washington DC on June 2 and that is followed by three home Tests against England. With a little over a month to go, Whiteley desperately needs some game time under the belt before he can be considered for Bok selection, let alone the captaincy.
Word coming out of the Lions camp is that Whiteley could be fit and available any day now and that the injury is not considered serious, but with only five rounds of fixtures left before the June break - Whiteley has already been ruled out for this weekend - time is running out.
Long considered one of the country's most natural leaders, Whiteley looks to have all of the right ingredients to lead the Boks into a new era.
But, if he is not fit, Erasmus will have to look elsewhere.
"We need to see where Warren is going ... he'll be a strong contender," Erasmus said at Cape Town International Airport on Wednesday.
"But you can't go into a Test match with a player who has only played 40 minutes or 50 minutes."
The man who replaced Whiteley as national skipper in 2017, Eben Etzebeth, is also battling to get fit for June as he recovers from a serious shoulder injury.
"The injuries do effect the decision with Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth not playing," added Erasmus, who also suggested that some of his natural leaders like Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw were difficult choices because they were based abroad.
Another option is Siya Kolisi, who was massive for the Boks in 2017 but has struggled to find his best form in Super Rugby this year.
"Siya Kolisi is finding his feet now, especially at the breakdown," Erasmus said.
"He had an awesome game last week."
Erasmus clearly doesn't know for certain who his captain will be when he takes charge of his first Bok Test, but he isn’t overly worried at this stage.
"I think the group will only be announced the week prior to the Wales Test match, so we'll give it some time," he said.
"We're weighing up a few options. Luckily there are about four or five guys we can look at.
"Even if none of those guys are ready we might go with a young gun and a guy who is fit, has played all the games and is mature enough to handle it.
"You can't just sit and hope that senior players are ready. We might have to make a bold call there."
Should Erasmus be forced to go that route, then flyhalf Handre Pollard could emerge as a likely option.