Siya Kolisi spreads hope through ‘stupid and big dreams’ so that others can ‘Rise’

Siya Kolisi sings and dances with the people ahead of the pre-screeing of his documentary Rise: The Siya Kolisi Story in Zwide. Picture: Richard Huggard

Siya Kolisi sings and dances with the people ahead of the pre-screeing of his documentary Rise: The Siya Kolisi Story in Zwide. Picture: Richard Huggard

Published Feb 4, 2023


Cape Town - “Hope is all we have, brother. Without hope, we have nothing.”

These are the words of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, the eternal optimist who loves reassuring people around him that everything is fine, even if the proverbial roof is on fire.

In this case, it was just one of the organisers telling him “we hope to be on our way soon” as we journeyed through his hometown of Gqeberha. The trip took us from the airport to Grey High School and finished in the township of Zwide for the pre-screening of his documentary Rise: The Siya Kolisi Story.

After a day of walking in the Bok captain’s shoes, however, you realise that “hope” has different meanings for different people.

“I ‘hope’ we don’t have load shedding tonight” is a middle-class proverb, while “I ‘hope’ those designer shoes in the shop window are available in my size” would be more in tune with people higher up the food chain.

For Kolisi, though, hope was about survival growing up. “I hope I get something to eat.” Sadly, this is still the reality for millions of South African children.

Many of them don’t survive, or take a path that leads to crime, drugs and even death. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t look like stopping.

Kolisi admits he is one of the lucky kids who “was in the right place at the right time” when he joined Grey after being scouted as a top rugby talent.

And now, from having nothing to eat, Kolisi is the captain of the Springboks that won a Rugby World Cup in 2019.

It’s truly a one-in-a-million story, and one that Kolisi hasn’t taken for granted, especially because he knows his story is the sort of thing that can give young kids in the same position hope that you can strive for excellence, no matter what the circumstances.

“I walk with that pressure, becoming the first black Springbok captain. I can’t stuff it up, I need to give it everything I have every single day,” Kolisi said during the tour.

Siya Kolisi at Grey Highh School’s main rugby field that was named after him. Picture: Richard Huggard

“I walk with that on my shoulders every day, because I want there to be another one (a black Springbok captain) after me.”

The tour kicked off at Grey where Kolisi showed us The Kolisi Field, the school’s main rugby field, which was named after the Bok captain in 2019.

It’s a huge honour, and something that is not bestowed on a lot of people. It was previously named the Philip Field after the patron who funded the establishment of the field.

The cricket field was named the Pollock Oval, after batting legend Graeme Pollock, who also attended the school.

For a black kid from Zwide to have a rugby field at one of the country’s

top schools named after him, it’s a really big deal. But for Kolisi the gesture means much more than meets the eye.

“Representation is huge. It’s something that I always talk about,” the Bok captain said.

“To let people know where I come from, and to show that it’s possible to rise above your circumstances. We don’t tell our stories enough.

“People say ‘no, you’re just looking for attention’, but it’s about the intent in your heart and why you are doing something. That’s all that matters.

“We need to celebrate each other more. It’s not a competition, because that’s what the world wants you to think … There is a seat at the table for everyone.

“For people who say kids can’t dream of these things and that it’s stupid … I want to tell them stupid and big dreams are good.”

Kolisi’s biggest dream, however, and the one thing he feels he still needs to achieve is building a Model C school in Zwide, his home.

When you make the trip from Grey to Zwide, it’s easy to think that you’ve been teleported to a different world. The lush fields and facilities of the school are replaced by rundown infrastructure, including roads and shacks, while the Dan Qeqe Stadium, where Kolisi first picked up a rugby ball, has seen better days.

Kolisi wants to bring ‘Grey’ to Zwide, so that kids can stay in their environment while enjoying the best facilities, instead of the cream of the crop leaving on scholarships and not being able to mentor their peers at home.

“Grey is basically what we want for the township,” Kolisi said.

“During my time, three of us were taken to Model C schools. I wasn’t even the best back then, it was just a case of the right place at the right time for me.

Siya and Rachel Kolisi watch the pre-screening of Rise: The Siya Kolisi Story at the Isaac Booi Senior Primary School in Zwide. Picture: Deryck Foster

“So we get taken out of the township, and we get the best opportunities. But you’re now taking the cream of the crop out of the township, whereby here the kids can look up to us (as role models in their own community).

“We love it here in the township, we enjoy being in this environment. To take resources to the community is what is needed, not always the other way around.”

Whether this project gets off the ground or not, Kolisi knows it starts with just a little bit of hope.

* Rise: The Siya Kolisi Story will be broadcast on February 26 on the following platforms:

MNet: 26 February at 5pm.

1Magic: 26 February at 5pm.

SuperSport: 26 February at 8pm (Grandstand, Rugby, and Variety 1).

* Proceeds from Rise: The Siya Kolisi Story will be channeled back to the community and various worthy causes supported by the Kolisi family.