PRETORIA – “The bones in the graves of our heroes are turning. This is what we were fighting for. This game has been played for over 100 years. Siya has now written a (page in history) which no one will ever erase.”
That was the reaction from Makhaya Jack to the historic appointment of Siya Kolisi as the first black Springbok captain.
Jack is a legend of the non-racial Kwazakhele Rugby Union (Kwaru) in Port Elizabeth, affiliated to the then-SA Rugby Union (Saru), part of the anti-apartheid South African Council on Sport (Sacos).
Kwaru, a breakaway from the racial Port Elizabeth African Rugby Board, was headed by the now late Mono Badela, who was also a leader of the Media Workers Association of SA (Mwasa) before he was banned.
The 26-year-old Kolisi was unveiled as the player to lead the Springboks in the three-Test series against England, starting at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on June 9.
Jack, who also hails from Port Elizabeth and has been one of Kolisi’s mentors, said: “Siya is no ordinary player who has added to the numbers.
“He has proven it from the first day he wore the Springbok colours. Siya is going to be a role model and an inspiration to the youth from the Eastern Cape and the whole of South Africa.”
Sport and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa said: “I am mostly delighted that the leadership skills of Siya Kolisi have been recognised.
“I am also happy that new players include a number of black Africans. This augurs well with the transformation agenda of our country. Kolisi will become the 61st Springbok skipper and the first black African.”
Kaya Malotana, a former centre and wing, and the first black African to become a Springbok, hopes Kolisi’s appointment will expedite the rate of transformation in the sport, saying: “Maybe Siya is the gate to open doors for a (black) African Springbok coach to come now.
“I am excited for Siya; for me, it is long overdue, and I think he has been frustrated.
“Being the Springbok captain is a great milestone, but it is disappointing that in 2018, we are still talking about a black Springbok captain.
“Opportunities have been there to do it in the past, and they were never used.
“I am just hopeful that we are not going to be stuck in celebrating the first black Springbok and forget that we still have a serious transformation agenda that we must fast-track.”
Malotana says transformation needs to be a priority for rugby administrators, as it was the only way of giving equal and fair opportunities to everyone in the game.
“The only reason we are only celebrating the first black (African) Springbok captain in 2018 is exactly because the transformation agenda has not been made a priority from the powers-that-be.
“One will hope that South Africa will use this opportunity to bring this issue of transformation back on the table and in the spotlight, and put pressure on so that all the children who are playing this sport are on an equal footing.”
Born in Zwide township near Port Elizabeth, Kolisi is also the DHL Stormers captain and has played in 28 Tests since making his debut at age 22 against Scotland in Nelspruit on 15 June 2013. He has four Test tries to his name. pic.twitter.com/I0bHXkHQSj
Former Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers believes Kolisi possesses the right leadership qualities to be a successful national captain.
“I am happy for him, he has showed leadership capabilities and he is an inspiration to a lot of us. He has an unbelievable life story; hopefully he can be a very successful Bok captain.
“There is a much bigger story in showing what is possible if provided an opportunity, and this is a fantastic story for South Africa once again,” De Villiers said.
“It is a significant move by South African rugby. We must not look past Siya’s life, where he overcame odds to be where he is now.
“It speaks volumes of the individual. His fighting spirit is evident on the rugby pitch, and it is a story that can not only inspire his teammates, but the whole of South Africa.”
Among the many on Twitter who congratulated Kolisi was Olympic gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk, who said: “Yes!!!! Congrats my brother!!! So proud of u, Captain! #siyakolisi.”
Sprint ace Akani Simbine simply tweeted: “Captain my Captain SIYA KOLISI”, while former Bafana star and Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy tweeted: “What a big achievement and massive honour to Captain your Country. Congratulations my brother.”