New Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is ready to lead the team. Photo: Phando Jikelo/NLSA
In South Africa, we tend to like our good, wholesome heroes. This week the announcement of Siyamthanda Kolisi as the Springbok captain debunked the myth that good guys finish last.

I’ve always like Kolisi, I’ve always been struck by his incredible humility and willingness to have a quick chat.

I prefer the hard-working type of heroes. Those that may not have been blessed with heaps of natural talent but driven by an insatiable will to succeed despite the odds.

Not that I am saying Kolisi does not have the raw talent, of course, he has but that is what has defined him.

If Kolisi’s incredible rise in a sport that is burdened with racial stigma does not inspire even the most cold-hearted fan then nothing will.

There are many ways to judge a sportsman’s character and a key aspect for myself is the way they handle the media.

Athletes hardly ever speak to journalists out of their own volition but instead see us as a necessary evil.

Siya Kolisi will captain the Springboks for the first time against England next week. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

The apprehension is sometimes justified but in general, there is no reason why we can’t happily co-exist.

But the reality is that athletes try to get their media obligations out of the way as quickly as possible.

Kolisi counts among the rare few that are actually willing to have a real conversation and would also show interest in the other person’s life.

I was in Nelspruit when Kolisi made his debut for South Africa in a nervy 30-17 victory over Scotland in 2013.

His debut should have come a lot sooner after an impressive 2012 season before a thumb injury dashed his hopes of receiving a call-up.

It has been great to watch Kolisi adding more arrows to his quiver over the years while also growing in stature as a leader.

My dealings with Kolisi ended in 2015 as I transitioned from a rugby reporter to an Olympic sports writer.

On Thursday evening the two worlds collided once again and I was reminded of Kolisi’s character.

Kolisi was attending the premiere of world 400m record-holder Wayde van Niekerk’s documentary.

The two became friends on Twitter thanks to their shared love for Liverpool and a braai in Cape Town at Kolisi’s house sealed the friendship.

Siya Kolisi is ready to make his mark with the Springboks as the new captain. Photo: @Springboks via Twitter

Unprompted Kolisi spotted me looking uncomfortable at the black-tie event and came over to greet me.

It may seem like a silly gesture but in a world where athletes avoid journalists like the plague, it is refreshing to see one of the country’s top sportsmen show a sense of humility.

Caster Semenya has shown the same character despite the troubled relationship she has had with the media.

They both have had to endure intolerance from bigoted trolls on social media platforms and elsewhere, but have responded with class and kindness.

There is no doubt Kolisi will lead the Boks with aplomb and take South African rugby into a more inclusive direction.


Saturday Star

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