Siya Kolisi, the esteemed flanker, is set to captain South Africa for the 50th time in their crucial World Cup Pool B game against Tonga. This is a milestone he admits he “never thought would happen”. Raised in a poverty-stricken township in Zwide, the idea of playing for South Africa was far from his mind. Yet, his journey has been nothing short of remarkable.
From Humble Beginnings to World Cup Victory
Kolisi, who led the Springboks to victory at the 2019 World Cup as the country’s first black captain, has become an emblem of hope and resilience. Despite experiencing hunger and violence as a child, his life took a turn when he received a scholarship to a white school. It was here that he honed his rugby skills and opened up new opportunities.
Kolisi’s path to becoming the iconic World Cup-winning skipper began with the Stormers in 2017 when he was appointed captain by former Springbok centre Robbie Fleck. Despite being known as the team’s joker, Fleck saw leadership potential in Kolisi. However, transitioning into the role of Springbok skipper was not without its challenges.
Siya Kolisi to captain the Boks for a 50th
Being the first black captain of the Springboks came with its own set of difficulties. Kolisi had to navigate the weight of this role and its historical significance. However, with the support of his teammates and coaching staff, he rose to the occasion. Today, only John Smit, who won the World Cup in 2007, has more Tests as Springbok captain with 83.
Despite partially tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in April, Kolisi made a remarkable recovery to return to action in this summer’s warm-up with Wales on 18 August. Now, he stands on the brink of becoming only the second man to lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice if South Africa retain their title.
With two victories under their belt in their first two pool matches against Scotland and Romania, South Africa are well-positioned to qualify for the last eight. However, they must secure a win over Tonga to keep their hopes alive.