Following the Springbok coach, being captain is the next most difficult job in South African rugby.
You won’t be everybody’s favourite, the coach will be accused of provincial bias, and you have to constantly prove that you are good enough to be a first-choice player in the team.
That has certainly been the lot of Siya Kolisi up to now – and don’t forget the quota brigade’s brickbats either.
But the 27-year-old loose forward is silencing those naysayers with every passionate performance he delivers, and it won’t be any different when he leads out the Boks against England at Twickenham on Saturday (5pm SA time kickoff).
Kolisi’s appointment was historic in the bigger picture of South African rugby, and one that was much-needed.
And it took an Afrikaner coach, Rassie Erasmus, to make the big call after the second black mentor in Bok history, Allister Coetzee, opted not to.
Kolisi has been reluctant to delve into the significance of his selection as captain up to now, but after 2-1 series win over England in June was followed by THAT victory over the All Blacks in Wellington, the Western Province flank is a bit more comfortable in his new, green-and-gold captain’s skin.
“It hasn’t been as hard as... It’s very tough to be Springbok captain. But for me, I can’t change who I am. So, that is why I became captain.
“I’ve had to carry on being myself. Obviously there are responsibilities off the field, but on the field, the main priority is for me to perform,” Kolisi said at a pre-Test press conference in London on Friday.
“That is how the coaches have made my job easier – the main focus is to make sure that I put in the best I can for however long I can. That is what I have been trying to focus on – not focus on everything outside the field.”
Kolisi was adamant that he wasn’t feeling the pressure of the position. He spoke excitedly about playing at Twickenham for the first time on Saturday – “it’s where it (rugby) all started” – and how he relies on his lieutenants to lend a hand in the heat of battle.
“I’m very chilled – this is how I am at all times. I’m a happy person. I’ve got a lot of leaders in my team, and there’s no point in me trying to control everything and taking all that stress on me,” he said.
High ball chase. The Boks wings Sbu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi doing some high ball drills at Friday's Springbok Captains run at Twickenham.#boksontour ##CastleLagerOutgoingTour#LoveRugby pic.twitter.com/h5sYfkmTIW— South African Rugby (@Springboks) November 2, 2018
“I believe in shared leadership, and some guys are better at some stuff than me. I let the guys take control where they can, so that we can all grow as a team.
“We are not where we want to be, and want to improve a lot more. We want to work hard, and that is what the coach drives – effort is the most important thing, and that’s what he judges us on.”
And as the English media tried to paint a picture of the Boks being favourites against Eddie Jones’ injury-depleted side, who are under pressure to get back on track, Kolisi was having none of it.
“I wouldn’t say so (that England are under pressure), as they won the last game they played against us (at Newlands in June). There is pressure on both teams, and I’m not sure what’s going on in their camp,” he said.
“These are the last four games, and then there are only four more games before the World Cup. It’s important to win away from home, for the guys to perform in different environments. It’s going to be a test for our team.”@ashfakmohamed