CAPE TOWN – His critics doubted his appointment as the new Springbok captain, but it was Siya Kolisi who had the last laugh following a 2-1 series victory over England.
Kolisi thrives on being handed more responsibility, as we saw with the Stormers last year. He’s hardly ever had a poor match in a Bok jersey, and often raised his game in national colours.
Kolisi has himself admitted that he has not been at his best in Super Rugby this year, but there is no denying his class as a rugby player and his ability to be a skipper.
The 27-year-old also made history by becoming the first black African Bok captain since unity in 1992, which gave all people of colour tangible hope that rugby is making the necessary strides to transform and provide equal opportunities to all players.
Such is his nature that Kolisi refused to speak about what the “bigger picture” of being the Springbok captain means to him at his pre-Test press conference on Friday, saying with a smile that he would answer the question from IOL Sport after the Newlands Test.
On Saturday, despite the disappointing 25-10 defeat on a cold and wet day, Kolisi could relax a bit and reflected fondly on the series win.
“After today, it’s tough, but really glad we won the series. It’s tough to lose in a Springbok jersey – all sitting there, everybody’s happy that we won the series, but it’s really bitter because Coach says now we have another two months to wait (before they play again),” he said.
“But to be honest, I’m really happy that we won the series, really proud. We worked hard, and I think England were better today, they were better. We let ourselves down with the discipline.
But my teammates… Duana (Vermeulen), I know he’s really special on and off the field. He calms everything down, but in the beginning, it was really tough. He’s always there helping, and Handré (Pollard) is also a young leader in the team.
“Coach gives us the licence to be adults in the team and take ownership. And it’s something that I think is going to help us be better come 18 months’ time (at the World Cup).
“And the hard work that they put in puts us at ease because we have everything there for us. So, I’m really proud of how it’s went, and the support that I got from my teammates – it was really special.”
It is unclear if Kolisi will continue as the captain – Erasmus did say that it’s only for the England series, with the likes of Eben Etzebeth and Warren Whiteley set to return from injury for the Rugby Championship – but leading a new Bok team to victory over Eddie Jones’ England is something that Kolisi can treasure, and can never be taken away from him.