DURBAN – Before the June Test series against England, incoming Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus had an important decision ahead of him, not only from a rugby perspective, but one of national importance in terms of healing this country’s past scars.
The coach decided to make the call of naming Siya Kolisi as his captain, a decision that was probably a purely rugby one, but just because of the time and space, turned out to be an historic one.
Kolisi became the first black Springbok captain when he led the team out against England in Johannesburg, a defining moment both for the Boks and the nation.
A lot was rightly made of this event, but now, on the dawn of the Rugby Championship, it has started to become a lot more normalised, to the relief of the man himself.
“It feels a lot more relaxed, or should I say, more rugby-focused for me,” Kolisi said of the attention around his appointment dying down.
“I just want to be measured on my effort on the field, and what I do on the field. It has been great though because I have had five weeks to work in Stellenbosch at the training camp, and everything has been coming together well for everybody in the squad.”
Kolisi’s elevation to captain cannot be faulted as he is playing some of his best rugby, and he has matured into a true leader of men at his franchise, and now for his country.
He is, however, very new to the role and admitted to leaning on the experienced Duane Vermeulen in June.
This time around, with Vermeulen out of contention, he has the benefit of leaning on three other previous Bok captains in Warren Whiteley, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit.
“It makes things a lot easier having four captains in the team,” Kolisi added. “We are all kind of similar, especially myself and Warren, in the way we lead.
“And I think they will take a lot of the responsibility off me, so we can all focus on playing, knowing we have each other on the field to lean on.”