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‘This will be the biggest game of my life …’ Springboks’ Siya Kolisi ready for All Blacks World Cup final challenge

South Africa's Siya Kolisi interacts with supporters following victory in the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter final match at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis

Despite having already lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2019, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says the Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand on Saturday will the biggest game of this life. Picture: Gareth Fuller/BackpagePix

Published Oct 26, 2023


Iconic Springboks captain Siya Kolisi insisted Thursday that rugby does not come any bigger than a Rugby World Cup final against old rivals New Zealand.

The two sides clash at the Stade de France on Saturday to renew a rivalry unparalleled in the world of rugby union.

"It's huge," said Kolisi, who was also Bok skipper when South Africa beat England to win the Webb Ellis Cup four years ago in Japan.

"We've prepared as hard as we can. We know what to expect. I don't think as a player it will ever get any bigger. I think it will be the biggest game of my life.”

John Smit inspiration

Kolisi said he had watched the 2007 final in France, when South Africa again beat England, and had been inspired as John Smit lifted the trophy.

He said he had watched that game with people who didn't even normally follow rugby.

"It's only because South Africa were playing that they just sit and watch the game," said Kolisi, who was the first black player to wear the captain's armband for the Boks in a Test match.

"I never thought I'd be here playing the final in the same place that I was watching John Smit lift the World Cup.

"This is the stuff that you dream about. Honestly, I'd be lying if I said this wasn't one of my dreams to play in the World Cup final in France against the All Blacks.”

'In the streets’

The last time the Boks faced off against New Zealand in a World Cup final was in 1995, when Nelson Mandela rallied behind the home team once seen as a symbol of apartheid.

That victory became a unifying, jubilant moment in a country still torn by deep societal divides and struggling with high poverty and unemployment.

"I didn't get to watch the game, I was four then," said Kolisi.

"The significance of the game is huge. It opened a lot of doors for me and many others.

"It was a huge game for South Africa in general and that's why it's highly spoken about even to this day.”

For coach Jacques Nienaber, that 1995 success was also well remembered.

"After the victory we were all in the streets. I was at university then," he said.

"I watched the game about a year ago. It's amazing how the game has changed.

Different ball game

"There were over 80 kicks in that game. And they played with a leather ball. There wasn't any lifting in the line-outs so there were a lot of differences back then.

"The ball in play was under 24 minutes. There was literally no rugby, it was set-piece after set-piece. The game is a far better product now than it was back then, but not taking anything away from the game.”

Kolisi warned against any complacency when taking on New Zealand come Saturday despite having inflicted the heaviest defeat ever, 35-7, on the All Blacks in their final warm-up match in August.

"They're one of the most successful teams in the world," he said of the team that lost the opening game of this tournament to hosts France.

"They turned it around quietly and now they are here. We had to find our way too.

"I don't think it will ever be bigger than this."