Does Siya Kolisi's move to French club Racing 92 mean the Springboks need a new captain?

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi celebrates after the team won their Rugby World Cup final clash against the All Blacks at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday. Photo: Yoan Valat/EPA

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi celebrates after the team won their Rugby World Cup final clash against the All Blacks at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday. Photo: Yoan Valat/EPA

Published Oct 29, 2023


Two-time Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks captain Siya Kolisi will consider three options before deciding his international future, a close friend of his told AFP on Sunday.

The 32-year-old flanker can continue as captain, carry on only as a player, or retire having made a massive impact on the Springboks.

Kolisi emulated New Zealand legend Richie McCaw by winning back-to-back World Cups as a captain thanks to a gripping 12-11 final victory over the All Blacks in Paris on Saturday.

Yellow carded for a high tackle in the second half, the loose forward returned from the sin bin to help his team survive a fierce New Zealand onslaught and win the trophy a record fourth time.

Kolisi will return to South Africa on Tuesday with his teammates for what are sure to be wild celebrations in a country battered by electricity, water, crime and unemployment crises.

"Do not expect an immediate announcement from Siya — he has a lot to consider," said his associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Let him and his team enjoy themselves first. What they have achieved is beyond amazing. Siya Kolisi is a national treasure. He must be the most popular person in South Africa right now."

Having lapped up the admiration of his countrymen, the skipper of the green and gold will return to France and begin a three-year contract with Top 14 club Racing 92.

"I am very enthusiastic about the idea of joining Racing after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, a visionary club that I have always admired," Kolisi said when announcing his move.

Racing contract

An SA Rugby official has denied reports that the Racing contract forbids Kolisi playing for the Springboks after the just-completed World Cup.

"That issue was discussed, but my understanding is no such clause was included in the final contract," he told AFP.

Currently, Springbok captains have to be based in South Africa in order to fulfil commercial and social obligations.

AFP understands that policy could be reviewed as Kolisi is much more than a captain — he is a national icon who has transformed South African rugby.

Kolisi is the face of the Springboks, whose teams were restricted to white players for 90 years and seen as symbols of apartheid by the black majority in South Africa.

Current Springbok sides include locals, and players lured to Europe and Japan by salaries often three times bigger than what they can earn at home.

However, local franchise coaches would prefer Springbok selection to be confined to home-based players as the exodus weakens United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup aspirations.

Another factor Kolisi will consider is his publicly stated desire to spend more time with his wife Rachel and children.

While Kolisi ponders his future, head coach Jacques Nienaber is heading to Irish outfit Leinster after guiding the Springboks to glory.

Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids, two of his assistants, are frontrunners to replace the man who was never head coach of a senior team before taking charge of the Springboks in 2020.

Back-row forward Duane Vermeulen, 37, announced several months ago that he would quit after the World Cup, amid speculation he might join the Springboks coaching staff.

There is a ready-made replacement for the 'Great Duane' in Jasper Wiese, who came off the bench in the final.