Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus. Photo: BackpagePix

Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus. Photo: BackpagePix

Kolisi opens up to Rassie: Your advice kept me going in 2019!

Siya Kolisi has shared how advice from Rassie Erasmus helped him stay focused when doubts were creeping in before the 2019 World Cup.

Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus. Photo: BackpagePix

Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus. Photo: BackpagePix

On Thursday, Kolisi was deservedly named as the SA Rugby Player of the Year for 2021. He had been nominated alongside Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth and Makazole Mapimpi, who battled it out for the coveted award after earning the most votes in the annual nomination process.


Kolisi – who was named the Springbok Player of the Lions Series last year and was the only Springbok to play in all 13 Tests in 2021 – led South Africa to a superb series victory over the British & Irish Lions in August and memorable wins against the All Blacks and Wales.

A virtual press conference was held with Kolisi on Thursday afternoon, and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus – who has just completed his first 60-day ban from World Rugby – popped up to ask a pertinent question.

“Siya congrats,” Erasmus said. “What would you say to young or old players when negative stuff is said about them or when they are written off and told they shouldn’t be in the team?”

Kolisi provided a well-considered answer

“Coach, I think if you can manage to take comments on board, both the good and bad, that’s fine. But the harshest critic has to be yourself at the end of the day. You need to look at yourself because you know the processes and preparation required to perform at your best, and you have to ask yourself: ‘have I worked hard enough?.

‘That is the most important thing before reading any comments. Sometimes things don’t always work out exactly as you’d like, but in the Bok camp, the way we worked never changed no matter who we played against or what happened. So ja, you have to be your own biggest critic before anyone else, and sometimes you have to take criticism on the chin, see what you’ve done to prepare and perhaps what you could have done better.

“So focus on yourself, believe in yourself and realise that sometimes your form will waver. I experienced that before the 2019 World Cup, but you just told me to keep working hard, to get myself fit, and that the form would then return. That helped a lot. Sometimes you just have to go back and play club rugby or for your franchise to find a way back to playing your best.”

Meanwhile, Kolisi also opened up about his move from the Stormers to the Sharks last year, while he reflected on a rollercoaster year for the Boks.

“The change was a scary one after being at the Stormers for 11 years. I got to the Sharks and knew I had to prove myself. I wasn’t close to where I needed to be (in terms of form and fitness) and was even scared of not making the Bok team. I wasn’t fit enough, but after I got back to the Bok camp, the standards and goals that are set there helped me build on the strong base that I’d established at the Sharks. 

“All in all, I took a lot of positives from what happened last year considering all the challenges. The way our coaching staff and team adapted was amazing. We didn’t complain and just go on with it, even when there were stumbling blocks, we pulled through. We made a collective decision to make sacrifices that were necessary. And so, in the future, I’m confident we’ll find solutions to any problems.”


The winners and finalists (where applicable) for 2021 are:

SA Rugby Player of the Year: Siya Kolisi

Finalists: Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth, Makazole Mapimpi

SA Rugby Young Player of the Year: Aphelele Fassi (Springboks / Cell C Sharks)

Finalists: Jaden Hendrikse (Springboks / Cell C Sharks), Jordan Hendrikse (Junior Springboks / Emirates Lions), Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers / Western Province)

Springbok Women’s Player of the Year: Lusanda Dumke

Springbok Sevens Player of the Year: Ronald Brown

Finalists: Selvyn Davids, Siviwe Soyizwapi

Junior Springbok Player of the Year: Henco van Wyk

Finalists: Jordan Hendrikse, Jan-Hendrik Wessels

Team of the Year: Springboks

Finalists: Vodacom Bulls, Springbok Sevens

Coach of the Year: Jake White (Vodacom Bulls)

Finalists: Jacques Nienaber (Springboks), Neil Powell (Springbok Sevens)

Carling Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year: Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls)

Finalists: Johan Goosen (Vodacom Bulls), Evan Roos (DHL Western Province)

Carling Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year: Dylan Maart (Boland Kavaliers)

Finalists: Anrich Richter (Valke), Danrich Visagie (Leopards)

Provincial Women’s Player of the Year: Lusanda Dumke (Border Ladies)

Castle Lager Test Try of the Year: Cheslin Kolbe – Springboks v British & Irish Lions (third Test)

Finalists: Cobus Reinach – Springboks vs Georgia; Makazole Mapimpi – Springboks vs British & Irish Lions; Sizophila Solontsi – Springbok Women vs Kenya; Aphelele Fassi – Springboks vs Argentina; Damian de Allende – Springboks vs New Zealand; Malcolm Marx – Springboks vs Wales; Makazole Mapimpi – Springboks vs Scotland; Zintle Mpupha – Springbok Women v Wales; Libbie Janse van Rensburg – Springbok Women v Wales