Kolisi recalls tough childhood in autobiography

In his official autobiography, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi looks back on how rugby saved him after his difficult upbringing in the Zwide township in the Eastern Cape.

The autobiography, ‘Rise’, details Kolisi’s success on and off the rugby field, but also recalls the grittier details of his childhood.

In an excerpt, published by the Sunday Times, Kolisi recalls how he was raised by his aunt after his grandmother passed away, but also how rugby saved him from a life of crime.

“After my grandmother died my aunt raised me, and she did a great job. She didn’t take any attitude from me: if I didn’t do chores then I didn’t get fed, simple as that. But I still felt that the one person who’d loved me unconditionally had gone, and without her, Zwide could seem an even scarier place than before,” Kolisi writes.

“It was at a time when I was starting to hang out with some kids a bit older than me and doing what they were doing: drinking, smoking weed, sniffing petrol. We’d squeeze five rands’ worth out of the pump, shake it up in a plastic bottle and inhale the fumes. I was only eight or nine, thinking I was tough and just wanting to fit in. If I’d gone much further down that path, I could have ended up a tsotsi, a young criminal, and from there you only have two real options: jail or death. Or both. 

“It was rugby that saved me.”

Kolisi explains how he fell in love with rugby and started playing for the African Bombers, who were based at Dan Qeqe Stadium only a few streets from his house.

From there, Kolisi was offered a scholarship at Grey Junior when he was 12 years old and subsequently earned a scholarship to continue at Grey High School.

A regular member of the school’s first XV, he would represent Eastern Province at U16 and U18 levels, before joining Western Province’s youth academy.


Photo: Gallo Images

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