15 May 2024

Kolisi has greater ambition than winning World Cups

8:21 am on 15 May 2024
South Africa's flanker and captain Siya Kolisi kisses the Webb Ellis Cup as he celebrates winning the France 2023 Rugby World Cup final match against New Zealand at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, on October 28, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

South Africa's flanker and captain Siya Kolisi celebrates winning the France 2023 Rugby World Cup final match against New Zealand in October 2023. Photo: AFP

South Africa's double World Cup-winner Siya Kolisi has vivid memories of a tough upbringing which means no rampaging tight-head prop or 150kg lock can strike fear into him ahead of two tests against Ireland in July that may be his last as skipper.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has hinted that he may appoint a new captain either this year or next, preferring a locally-based option, but could wait until after the eagerly-anticipated series with Andy Farrell's side.

Kolisi, 32, moved to France to play for Racing 92 this season having led the Springboks to World Cup triumphs in 2019 and 2023, the latter after pressure-filled knockout wins over hosts France, England and New Zealand each by a single point.

Some might call it luck but for Kolisi and a number of his team mates the mental fortitude to come through those tight contests stems from difficult childhoods in South Africa, one of the most unequal societies in the world with rampant unemployment and a high rate of violent crime.

"The stuff that I saw as a child was not good for a child to see, and I saw it so many times," Kolisi told the Mind Set Win podcast.

"I saw a therapist and started speaking, learning how to express myself, sharing my feelings, and it helped me get through so many things.

"I have doubts in myself but I never have doubts in my team. I know who I have next to me and around me. For us as a team we come from South Africa, and we face challenges each and every single day.

"We've been through far worse than a rugby game. A rugby game is just another day, another walk in the park."

Kolisi will go down as one of rugby's great captains, a man who united a team, and to a large extent a country, and drove them to success. But he wants to be remembered for much more than that.

"(I don't want to be remembered) for the things I do on the field. What I want to be remembered for is the work I do with my foundation," he said.

The Kolisi Foundation focuses on education and sport, gender-based violence and food security for communities.

"I think that's a much bigger impact because the trophies and all the achievements, the records that we set, somebody else will come and break them.

"But I think the lives that you touch off the field, like we do with my foundation, it's some of the work that I needed as a child that I wish somebody had done for me."

- Reuters