For a moment, just a moment during the course of last year, thousands of rugby-mad residents of the township of Zwide in Port Elizabeth thought that the one and only chance of Stormers flank Siya Kolisi becoming a Springbok had diminished.
But the 21-year-old Kolisi never for a moment doubted that his dream of becoming a Springbok would not come through when he broke his hand in a Currie Cup game last year after being selected for the Springbok team for the Australia and New Zealand leg of the Rugby Championship.
In fact, Kolisi believed more than ever before that it was just a matter of time before he would wear the green and gold Springbok jersey and, true to his conviction, Kolisi is likely to make his Springbok debut against Scotland on Saturday in Nelspruit.
While Kolisi’s rise to international rugby has been steady, it almost went pear-shaped during this year’s Super Rugby campaign for the Stormers as the team has struggled to regain the form of last year which saw them become conference winners for the second consecutive year.
But what has been a rather indifferent year for Kolisi and the Stormers has turned into the biggest moment of his fledgling rugby career as he stands on the verge of the greatest achievement for any rugby player.
“I can’t explain it in words, I’m really happy. I’m happy not just for myself but also for the people who have been supporting me. I have the full backing of the coach and I’m really excited.
“I had to fight back after I broke my hand. I actually forgot that I broke my hand last year. It has just been this year and focusing on this year. I’ve worked hard but my season didn’t go as well as last year, it started off slowly and then got better and better. It has been worth every single bit of work that I put in,” Kolisi said yesterday after being named on the Springboks bench.
As much as Kolisi’s belief in that his day of reckoning would come based on the overwhelming support he receives from family, friends and the people of Port Elizabeth, his positive mindset has come from Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“He (Meyer) has been telling me throughout all the games that I will get my chance. He has always been backing me and that is why I have stayed positive. It is a huge privilege for me but I kind of knew that it was going to come somewhere along the line,” said the shy but robust loose forward.
Being in the Springbok squad has been a great learning adventure for Kolisi and even though he has proven himself and come out on top against the best loose forwards in the southern hemisphere, he is on a mission to learn more about becoming a valuable asset in Meyer’s team now and in the future.
While robust with ball in hand and uncompromising on defence, Kolisi will have to quickly learn how to be a world-class fetcher so as to satisfy Meyer’s need for an all-round loose forward in the Springbok team and Kolisi is listening to every piece of advice from incumbent Springbok flank Francois Louw.
“He (Louw) is giving me a lot of advice on how to steal the ball. I’ve never really done it because I have focused on putting in big hits and driving guys back.
“He has been giving us tips but I want to be disciplined and I don’t want to try too hard and cause penalties for the team. I will keep my discipline while I try,” said Kolisi.
It won’t just be the team and the country that Kolisi will be trying not to let down but more importantly his father, who will make the long trek to Nelspruit from Port Elizabeth to watch his son for only the second time in his life.
“Putting on the jersey, playing and representing my country and backing the guys that I am playing with. Obviously just doing the best I can to make sure that we win this Saturday.”
“My dad is certainly coming, it will be his second game watching me live, so I’m very excited. He is going to be more emotional than me. I’m going to be the first Springbok from my township. He is going to be a proud dad and he will cry, and I’ll probably join him,” Kolisi said.
Kolisi celebrates his 22nd birthday on Sunday. - The Star