Siya Kolisi has reiterated that the job of leading the Springboks at a tournament as demanding as the World Cup will be a team effort, writes JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
Kolisi will become the first black African to captain the Boks at a World Cup when the team begins its campaign in Japan on 21 September. At the squad announcement on Monday, the humble flank thanked coach Rassie Erasmus for the opportunity.
The story of Kolisi’s rise to the top is well documented. He grew up on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth in Zwide and had to fight for a chance to play professional rugby.
At the time, Erasmus, then the Western Province director of rugby, gave Kolisi his first contract.
‘I’m really honoured to lead the Boks,’ Kolisi said. ‘Coach Rassie gave me my first chance out of school. I knew him before all of this.
‘He knows where I come from. These are opportunities that you don’t even dream about [as a kid growing up in the townships].’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) August 26, 2019
Kolisi will follow in the footsteps of Jean de Villiers, John Smit and Francois Pienaar, among others. When he was asked about the responsibility of leading a side at a World Cup, he said that he will not be carrying this burden alone.
‘I’m very nervous about it. At the same time I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and I know they will support me through all of this.
‘There are a lot of players in the group who have led before, who know what it’s like, and I’m going to be counting on them.
‘I’m grateful that all the coach wants me to do is play my game. I’m not someone who wants to be seen as the guy in charge. When I need help I will ask for it. I’m willing to let other players lead in ways I can’t.’
In Kolisi’s injury-enforced absence in the Rugby Championship, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits were all given opportunities to lead the team. Last year, Pieter-Steph du Toit led the side in a one-off Test against Wales in the USA.
The Bok group also boasts a number of players who have led their franchises in recent times.
Handre Pollard captained the Vodacom Bulls after Lood de Jager broke down with injury earlier this season. Beast Mtawarira (Sharks), Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert (Lions), Steven Kitshoff (Stormers) and Francois Louw (Bath) are others who have held leadership positions.
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images