Fezakele Kolisi has arrived in Japan and will be at the Yokohama Stadium on Saturday to watch his son make history. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
Kolisi is set to win 50th Test cap on Saturday. He will also become the first black African to lead the Boks in a World Cup final.
Kolisi’s wife Rachel as well as his children Nicholas and Keziah will be in the stands tomorrow. The Bok skipper confirmed that another member of the family arrived in Japan during the early hours of Friday morning and is set to make an appearance at the final.
He laughed after Mzwandile Stick, seated to his left at a press conference held in Tokyo, revealed that Kolisi Snr was currently with the family at Disneyland.
‘This is my father’s first trip overseas,’ Kolisi said. ‘I’m really happy that my dad as well as my best friend got the chance to come. It will be only the second time he’s watched me live after my first game for the Boks [against Scotland back in 2013].
‘That’s one of the great things about rugby, it gives you a chance to do things like this for your family. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity.’
Kolisi went on to highlight the importance of the occasion in a team context.
‘It’s a special day for every single guy in the team,’ he said. ‘I’m very happy to reach 50 matches and I know that not many people achieve that. But the most important thing is that I do my part for the team on Saturday.’
On Thursday, coach Rassie Erasmus spoke about the challenges Kolisi has faced since assuming the captaincy in June 2018. The flank struggled with his form across the series against England. He suffered a serious knee injury in early 2019. At one stage it was feared that he wouldn’t be fit for the World Cup in Japan.
On top of all that, Kolisi had to cope with the pressure and expectation that comes with being the country’s first black African Test captain.
‘The job was very tough in the beginning. When it got announced, it was a big thing at home and around the world. It took it’s toll. We played England in that series last June and I wasn’t at my best.
‘I had to work hard. We have a great conditioning coach in Aled Walters and he helped me get to where I needed to be. I had to focus on improving my game more than anything else.
‘Rassie made things easier for me,’ Kolisi added. ‘He told me to block out the noise and concentrate on what I needed to do on the field. We also shared the leadership load across the team, with guys like Duane Vermeulen, Handre Pollard and others helping me a great deal.’
The Boks haven’t won a World Cup since 2007. A lot’s been said about what a title victory could do to lift the mood of the country.
Kolisi feels that the manner in which the multiracial side has conducted itself over the past year or so, however, is the real success story.
‘It would be huge for us to win the trophy, and for the country as well,’ said Kolisi.
‘We’re a diverse team with players from different walks of life. We’ve know what we want to achieve. It will say a lot if all these different people can buy into one plan and achieve something special.
‘We have the country behind us and that is something huge. We really trust in the plan that’s got us this far.
‘Emotions are running high,’ he added,’ but I suppose it comes down to how you channel that energy and make it work for you. We’ve got a rare opportunity here and we are determined to make it count.’
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