JOHANNESBURG – New Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is hopeful the vocal Ellis Park crowd will lift his team in the first of three Tests against England on Saturday.
Kolisi will become this country’s first black Bok captain when he leads a new-look side into battle against Eddie Jones’ team.
More than 50 000 tickets have been sold for the Joburg Test, which will see three men – wings Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’bu Nkosi, and lock RG Snyman, make their debuts.
While Kolisi hails from the Eastern Cape, but plays for the Stormers and Western Province, who are based in Cape Town, he said on Friday that Ellis Park was his favourite “Bok ground”.
It is the same stadium where the Springboks of Francois Pienaar beat the All Blacks in the World Cup final in 1995.
After that game then former president Nelson Mandela, wearing a green Bok No 6 jersey – given to him by Pienaar – handed the trophy to the winning captain. Kolisi will also wear the No 6 on his back on Saturday.
“People often ask me which is my favourite field and I tell them when I play for my union (WP), it is Newlands, but when I play for the Boks, it is Ellis Park,” said the 26-year-old Kolisi.
“It’s a special field. Standing there singing the national anthem, you hear it equally, through the whole thing. You see the whole of South Africa in front of you... all the different colours, the races, it’s really beautiful. It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.”
Kolisi added the crowd would “100 percent” get behind them, like always. “They always get behind us. For some reason we always turn up when we play here; we bring our best.
“I think it won’t be any different (this time). This is one of the awesome Test matches because it doesn’t happen often, like us playing against the All Blacks or Australia. This is a special one; why it’s such a big occasion, why I’m looking so forward to it.”
Kolisi said he had only briefly thought about the significance of his appointment – and the fact he would be wearing that iconic No 6 on his back – opting rather to focus on his performance on Saturday.
“I’ve been relaxed hey,” he said when quizzed about his emotions in the build-up to Saturday’s match.
“The coach has made it quite simple for me. All he wants from me is to perform on Saturday. Also, I’ve always preferred shared leadership, so that I don’t take on everything myself. There are other guys here who’ve led their unions who will help me tomorrow.”
He was of course referring to the likes of Beast Mtawarira, Franco Mostert, Duane Vermeulen and Handré Pollard, all players who’ve captained teams at Super Rugby level and the experienced core of the Bok team.
Kickoff on Saturday is 5.05pm.