Former World Cup winner Bryan Habana believes that Siya Kolisi lifting the World Cup trophy would be a massive achievement for both him and South Africa.
Having watched the 2007 World Cup final between the Springboks and England at a local tavern in his Zwide township, Kolisi’s rise to captaining his nation on rugby’s biggest stage has been nothing short of remarkable.
Speaking to the media at a sponsor’s event on Monday, Habana reflected on Kolisi’s inspiring journey and what it would mean for the Bok captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup come Saturday.
‘Siya’s been an inspiration for many, not only rugby players, but people in South Africa,’ said the Springboks’ record try-scorer.
‘He had a very hard upbringing, where it wasn’t about the type of rugby boots he could wear for training, but more about what food he was going to eat that night, because they were just so underprivileged.
‘So, to see his rise to the top and know that he could potentially be the first black South African captain to bring that Webb Ellis Cup to South Africa would be incredibly inspirational.’
Prior to the tournament, Habana said how important a role Kolisi could play in bringing the ‘Rainbow Nation’ closer together once again. The former Bok wing compared Kolisi’s influence to that of former president Nelson Mandela, who played such an instrumental role during the 1995 World Cup-winning campaign.
‘If South Africa go on and win with Siya Kolisi as the captain, it will be absolutely monumental,’ said Habana.
‘For us as a country to have that inspiration, for 70% of our population to have that example, would be immensely important, on a par with Mandela in ’95 if not greater. It would be historic.’
Habana added that he was also proud to see how far the Boks have come under the guidance of Rassie Erasmus – after a tumultuous few seasons in the national set-up – noting what SA Rugby has got right since the head coach’s appointment.
‘There’s definitely been positive change in the Bok environment from the top-level administration all the way down, that potentially wasn’t there in [former coach] Alistair Coetzee’s time,’ continued Habana.
‘I think having the availability of overseas-based players that are now playing well, and putting structures into place logistically, that he was able to has helped.
‘And creating a sense of belief for the players. In 2018, we were still only at a 50% win record but it’s gone a lot better in 2019.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 28, 2019
Photo: EPA/Mark R. Cristino/BackpagePix