PRETORIA – In just four months after being appointed the first black Springbok captain, Siya Kolisi has gone through it all.
In the euphoria and fanfare that had gripped the country and parts of the international community where rugby matters with his appointment, Kolisi seemed to take everything in his stride.
And that was the case when his Springboks side produced another come-from-behind performance in the second Test against England in Bloemfontein to secure the series with a game to spare.
Kolisi’s elevation to the Springbok captaincy had looked like a seamless transition of power and against certain pockets of resistance, Kolisi’s Boks were proving many wrong, showing that winning and transformation can happily co-exist even at the highest level of sporting excellence.
But Kolisi’s honeymoon period in the captaincy was never going to last too long and his world would have probably felt like it is caving in with the losses to Argentina in Mendoza and Australia in Brisbane.
The feeling of failure and imminent disaster would have been amplified last week in the build up to the Test, against the All Blacks in Wellington.
All that negativity and pressure on Kolisi and his team changed in a matter of 80 minutes as in typical Kolisi fashion the Springboks wore their hearts on their sleeves and gave a performance for the ages to beat the All Blacks against all odds.
Everything that happened in Wellington and the build up to the game mirrored a lot of Kolisi’s journey in life and rugby and his ascension to being captain.
However as much as one performance changed the rugby world’s perception about the Springboks in the same way that Kolisi’s career has, the time has come for Kolisi to step out of the shadows and put his own mark on the team he leads.
Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if Bok coach Rassie Erasmus would invite former Springbok captains Gary Teichmann and John Smit and leave them to have a word or two with Kolisi.
As much as Kolisi has led through his actions on and off the field, he sometimes seems to lack the authority and decisiveness with which he plays when the time comes to making decisions on the field.
And this is where Teichmann and Smit come in.
Both men led the Springboks to some feats, Teichmann to that world record-equalling 17 unbeaten matches and Smit to the Holy Grail, the 2007 Rugby World Cup triumph and the 2009 British Lions series win.
At the same time both men know the dark side of being the leader of the pack with Teichmann having to watch from home as his team fell one game short from winning back to back World Cup titles in 1999.
Teichmann had been unceremoniously dropped just before the World Cup by then Bok coach Nick Mallett.
Smit had led the Boks to their biggest defeat, 49-0, against the Wallabies in Brisbane in 2006.
But the Springboks of 1999 and 2007 will always be remembered for their captains just as much as their feats.
Just like Kolisi’s Springboks left an indelible memory in Wellington on Saturday, Siya has to remind himself, his team and the rugby world that he is not just the face of the team but he is the man in charge.@Vata_Ngobeni