Siya Kolisi transformation

Gavin Barker / BackpagePix

Exclusive interview: Siya Kolisi chats to us about Bok captaincy

Siya Kolisi has enjoyed an incredible rise in the game of rugby, and could be set for even higher honours.

Siya Kolisi transformation

Gavin Barker / BackpagePix

History was made on Saturday, 9 June 2018, when Siya Kolisi led out 14 other men in the famous green and gold of the Springboks against England at Ellis Park, becoming the first ever black African to do so.

The 27-year-old who hails from Zwide, near Port Elizabeth has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the game of rugby, since picking up the love of the game from his father, who played centre for the township’s flagship side, then known as the Home Defenders – a name later changed to Zwide United.

His own talent rose to the forefront early enough for him to score a bursary to Grey High in PE, where he would impress enough to make the Eastern Province Craven A side, before turning up for SA Schools and the Baby Boks.

Watch: Siya Kolisi’s message to young rugby players: Get a good education

Kolisi made his international debut off the bench against Scotland at Mbombela Stadium in June 2013, and turned out to be an accidental hero – due to an injury suffered by former Bulls loose forward Arno Botha, who had to leave the field in only the fifth minute of the game.

Exactly five years later, the Stormers flanker led the Springboks out against England in Bloemfontein as they took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series against the two sides.

We had a chat with Kolisi about the immense pressure he’s had to face, as he took on one of the toughest jobs in international sport.

Read: Rugby: Siya Kolisi in line for Laureus Sports award

How did it feel to start off your tenure as Bok captain on a winning note?

It was obviously great to have clinched the Castle Lager Incoming Series 2-1 against England. It’s always a massive honour to win in front of our home fans, and I am glad the team was successful during the series.

Did it sink in immediately that you would be the first black Springbok captain, and is the added pressure that comes with that something you are constantly aware of?

I don’t put pressure on myself. I see myself as one of 23 players in the matchday squad, and I know I have very capable and experienced leaders around me such as Duane Vermeulen, Handré Pollard, Beast and so on.

The players all responded extremely well to coach Rassie’s instructions and also to took responsibility for their performances, which made my task easy. It allowed me to concentrate on my own game and play to the best of my ability.

Siya Kolisi (L) hugs eighthman, Duane Vermeulen at the beginning of the second test match South Africa vs England at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, on June 16, 2018. (Photo: AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI)

Watch: Here’s what Kolisi said to inspire the Boks to a comeback

Many felt that you should have been handed the armband in 2017, were you disappointed at all being overlooked?

I don’t look at it that way. I am grateful for the opportunity, I feel the leadership in the team is a collective effort and I am very grateful for every opportunity to play for the Springboks. I never take any opportunity to appear in the Green and Gold jersey for granted.

Did captaining the Stormers prepare you in any way for taking the reins at the Boks?

I am also grateful that at the DHL Stormers I have good leaders around me such as Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Frans Malherbe and Damian de Allende – they all made my task very easy to lead the team. You also learn a lot from playing together, appreciating all the different cultures.

At the end of the current season, what do you and the team hope to have achieved and what do you think will mark a successful 2018?

Every Springbok player wants the team to be successful. We all go out with the one goal in mind, to make the jersey and the country proud and not to disappoint our very loyal and passionate supporters.

Read: Rachel Kolisi: Six things to know about the love of Siya’s life