Siya Kolisi will lead the team when they run out against England on Saturday. Photo: Kim Ludbrook/EPA
On Saturday, just after brunch, a small army of proud men and women will gather as one and take a bus to the Ellis Park Precinct.

They will mark out their precious patch of land on the Lower East Block, and wait the last few hours before Xhosa Christmas kisses the Highveld in June, with a gift of a moment that they will cherish forever.

Just before kick-off between the Springboks and England, they will see Siyamthanda Kolisi, the boy they grew up with in the dusty streets of Zwide, run out onto his country’s most revered stage.

As captain. In a match and series that matters.

Ad astra per aspera, the Latin saying goes.

Kolisi has certainly known the rough road on the way to his coronation as Bok captain, and it would be completely understandable if he has looked in the mirror and wondered just when he became a politician.

Sport, by its nature, has the ability to divide a room. Red or Blue? Rugby or football? T20 fun or five days of battle? All these things matter, and your response to each matters, too.

In South Africa, with our unwanted inheritance of an insatiable obsession with colour and race, sport has the ability to unite and divide all at once.

Cheetah or Shark? Loftus or Newlands? Quota or quality?

For better or for worse, people in South Africa can’t help themselves. Which is why Kolisi had to respond to a question that pondered if his was a political appointment.

His answer was eloquent, measured and a quick reminder that leaders are born, not made. It was, of course, only a reminder for those who are quick to cast judgment when things outside ‘the norm’ happen.

To be sure, much of Kolisi’s 26 and some years have been out of the norm of a conventional Bok captain. Even before he gets to the rugby field, his is a fascinating narrative; one of perseverance, commitment, loyalty and unconditional love. He has made decisions beyond his tender years, and then had the conviction to live by his choices.

Those are choices that made him the kind of leader that Rassie Erasmus  himself a former Bok captain - identified as fundamental values for a leader.

As a coach, Erasmus has often been applauded for unconventional thinking. And yet, picking Kolisi as captain was one of his more straightforward decisions. It made sense - to most people, anyway.

Back to that bus on Saturday, though.

Those tickets in the East Block were initially brought by a dozen or so mates, who were keen to catch up over a game that looked good on paper. But when serendipity kicked in, and their childhood buddy gatecrashed their reunion with his ascension, the numbers quickly swelled well beyond 50. Still they rise.

They couldn’t care less that he lives in Cape Town now, or that he is married to a Rachel, or that he is ‘tight’ with Jesse Kriel. These things don’t matter.

The scruffy hairstyle still remains. The polite smile - even in strife  still endears, and the fire of motivation still burns deeply in a belly that was always hungry for more.

It is the Siyamthanda wakwaZwide they have always known, and it just so happens that his will be the first face they see emerge from the tunnel.

They won’t be hard to find, even in the anticipated full house. They will be wearing green, gold, and the biggest, proudest grins in the land.

As it turns out, their rough roads of youth had a star waiting at the end of the journey.

Lungani Zama will be on leave for the month of June. The Sunday Itch will resume in July.


Sunday Tribune

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