Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi arrives at OR Tambo International Airport with the Webb Ellis Cup on November 5. He has been named personality of the year by the UK Rugby Union Writers’ Club. Themba Hadebe AP
Pretoria - The rise of Siya Kolisi from the township of Zwide in the Eastern Cape to Springbok Rugby World Cup- winning captain “must be the ultimate example of just how transformative sport can be”.

That is the view of the chairperson of the UK Rugby Union Writers’ Club, Rob Kitson, after the organisation chose the Bok skipper as their personality of the year in London on Monday night.

Former Bok captain Francois Pienaar is also a previous recipient of the Pat Marshall Memorial Award.

It is the second honour that Kolisi has received since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup on that memorable Yokohama night on November 2 after South Africa beat England 32-12 in the final.

The 28-year-old was handed the World Peace and Sport Champion for 2019 Award in Monaco in December.

Writing in The Guardian, Kitson noted: “The main Pat Marshall Award for the individual who has made the greatest impact on rugby in the previous 12 months went to Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s inspirational World Cup-winning captain.

“As anyone familiar with Kolisi’s extraordinary back story will know, he must be the ultimate example of just how transformative sport can be.

“How many of us would have had the energy, desire, ambition and sheer bloody-mindedness to conquer the world from where Kolisi’s journey commenced?

“Now 28, he grew up in the tough township of Zwide outside Port Elizabeth, raised by his grandmother from the age of 15 after his mother died.

“There was so little money that his favourite childhood toy was a brick; so little food that often he had to train on an empty stomach.”

Kolisi, who played in his 50th Bok Test in the World Cup final, is busy preparing for the 2020 Super Rugby season at the Stormers, who will play in their final warm-up match against the Sharks at the FNB Stadium on Sunday.

The No6 paid tribute to his national teammates in accepting the award. “Thank you so much for this. I’m really honoured to be accepting this award. It is a huge honour and privilege on behalf of me and obviously my teammates - without them, I wouldn’t have achieved this,” Kolisi said.

“I just want to say, on behalf of South Africa, I just want to thank you for supporting rugby and supporting us as a country as well. This will mean a lot, especially to the people that have been supporting us all around. It is good to see that rugby is being recognised and that the game is growing.

“So, thank you for this - it is not just for me and my teammates in South Africa, but for all the rugby players around the world. Let’s keep on growing the game.”

Pretoria News