CAPE TOWN – “Siyamthanda Kolisi, Springbok captain.” Sounds cool doesn’t it? Much, much more important sounds RIGHT.
We need a black Springbok rugby captain. We need it for many reasons. One of the most powerful of those reasons is that it will give our kids hope. All our kids, black and white. And it might inspire them to buy a rugby ball instead of the latest red Tablet.
Siya is a great loose forward, a wonderful ambassador, a charming man. He can stretch out across boundaries and touch people on either side of the divide. He can open minds and soothe stormy and unhappy hearts.
The obvious question is: Will Rassie Erasmus pick Siya as his captain? I hope I am wrong, but I just have a feeling he won’t. And I don’t think it will be Warren Whiteley either. My instincts tell me he will go for Duane Vermeulen.
I have no issue with Vermeulen as a player. And I warmed to the cosmopolitan touch of Whiteley very much when he led the Boks. Eben Etzebeth? I felt a throb of deep disappointment when Allister Coetzee gave him the captain’s blazer ahead of Kolisi last year.
It is just one of the reasons why I didn’t cry myself to sleep last Friday when the Allister story finally reached the last page.
Again, this is not about Etzebeth the player. We all know what a devastating impact he can have on a game. We all know about Whiteley’s silky touches or Vermeulen bravely charging beard-first into danger.
But in South African sport, there are times when you have to look at the bigger picture and make the choice that is right for the country.
As I have written before, Johan Erasmus was quite something as a player. Because he dabbled in the unexpected. He chipped when you thought he would pass. He passed when you thought he would chip. He ran great lines. He played inside and outside the box.
And I jived with delight when he climbed onto the roof in Bloemfontein with his disco lights to coach the Cheetahs.
Now Diski Rassie has the chance to be innovative again. He was the one who first offered Siya Kolisi a contract at the Stormers. Now he can make him his Bok captain.
Siya has all the skills, on and off the field. He can play to the ball, he can run with the ball, he can win the ball, he can tackle and scrap with the best of them. And he will be a beautiful signal of rugby’s true and lasting commitment to transformation.
Like I said, not just cool. RIGHT.
Ian Smit is Independent Media’s Executive Editor: Sport, and a former rugby writer of the Cape Times.