Siya Kolisi signed for the Cell C Sharks in 2021 in what was a massive coup for the Durban based side over their coastal compatriots. It is well documented by now that the Sharks have obtained a major injection of capital with the sale of a 51% share to MVM Holdings and their commercial partnership with Roc Nation, the Jay-Z owned enterprise. Shortly after this relationship was formed, the Sharks announced the signing of Springbok captain, Siya Kolisi managing to keep him in South Africa whilst also luring him from the Cape.
Outside of the fact that he is a massive player and brand that adds immeasurable value to the Sharks brand as a whole, the move was also exactly what the world cup winning flank needed to ensure his longevity and continued success in the international arena. Siya was at his level best during the 2021 season, having particularly strong performances against the All Blacks and on the end of year tour. He laid his body on the line for the Boks and I believe he was in better form then, than he was in the 2019 World Cup.
So why then is the Sharks signing so good for Kolisi? The answer is fairly straight forward and twofold.
When Kolisi linked up with the Sharks he was just returning from an injury and most sides would be eager to get their marque signing out on the pitch, trying to get bang for the buck as it were, as quickly as possible. The Sharks resisted the temptation however and afforded him a proper pre-season and conditioning program. He was left out of the side for a number weeks as he completed his training and was eased into his new side thereafter. This was probably the first time in the last 4-5 years he has had the chance to complete a full pre-season program and this paid great dividends as the season wore on.
Kolisi for a long time has been and will be a starting member of the Bok 23 as he leads the side with aplomb and is a crucial element of the Bok side. A player like this needs down time as well, which will inevitably come to his domestic sides detriment. It is testament to the Sharks management that Kolisi is afforded the rest he requires in order to perform when it truly matters and they will get the best out of their player by maintaining this approach.
I am also heavily in favor of Sean Everitt's decision to retain Lukhanyo Am as captain of the Sharks. Whilst unusual for the national captain not to lead his domestic side, I believe it is a stroke of genius. Siya doesn't need to prove anything about his leadership ability and the entire country is behind him when he pulls on the Green & Gold. So then, allowing Am to lead the Sharks gives Siya a break from the pressures that come with captaincy, and whilst he will be involved in the leadership group, he is out of the direct firing line. This allows him to focus on his rugby only, again ensuring he is primed to perform on the pitch.
He will be 32 when the Boks head to France, and whilst not old, he is not in his twenties. Managing him properly will prove definitive in his performance for the Boks when it counts and the Sharks management team deserves a lot of credit for the manner in which they have handled their most prized asset so far. Now we look ahead to what great moments a great man will lead South African rugby too in 2022.