Siya Kolisi says his footwork will need to set him apart as the Boks’ new blindside flank, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Kolisi has featured in 13 Tests, but is yet to earn a start. However, he has been handed the No 7 jersey for Saturday’s Test against Ireland.
Schalk Burger was predominantly deployed at blindside flank last year, while 'bone collector' Willem Alberts has long been viewed as the Springboks’ archetypal enforcer in the loose trio.
‘We’re two different players,’ Kolisi acknowledged on Thursday. ‘For me, I need to use my footwork, I can’t only be direct and try and run over guys. I have to use other aspects of my game that I have tried to make the most of this year, I’ve got a different approach. I need to find the way that works for me.’
Indeed, what has separated Kolisi from the pack this Super Rugby season has been his footwork and dynamism with ball in hand. This was perhaps most aptly illustrated when he produced a superb sidestep to dodge past Elton Jantjies on his way to scoring a stunning solo try against the Lions in mid-April.
‘I’ve always had that aspect to my game, but when you’re not having a good season and are maybe low on confidence, that’s when you go away from your strengths as a player,’ Kolisi commented. ‘But when you start focusing on that again, you start to see the difference. I know I’m not the biggest [blindside] flank out there, so I need to have a different approach.’
The 24-year-old will be joined in the loose trio by the experienced Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw. Coach Allister Coetzee said he was confident that Kolisi could make a valuable contribution on Saturday.
‘I see Siya as a strong ball-carrier, he’s also a top-notch defender and it’s important for him to stop people from getting across the gainline. He needs to have a good work rate and offer lots around the park, it’s not just about having one perceived role, but to come with lots of different actions that show what he can do.’
Kolisi said he was determined to rise to the occasion on Saturday.
‘That ball-carrying role is going to be the most important thing for me. It’s my job to give the team good go-forward and I’m going to focus on that this Saturday. I’m going to do everything in my power to put us on the front foot, and it’s a role that I’m looking forward to taking on.’
And after 13 appearances off the bench, Kolisi is finally set to receive his first opportunity to start.
‘It almost feels like my first Test all over again. I’ve worked really hard on my game and it’s been a good year. It’s been good to play at No 7 for the Stormers and it’s a position I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve really focused on making big hits on defence and running with the ball in hand. I’m trying to add different elements to my game, like jumping as a lineout option, which is a good thing.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images