Siyamthanda Kolisi was named as the Springbok Captain, by then head coach, Rassie Erasmus before his 1st test in charge. It was a stroke of genius as Siya was in great form, he was well established in the Springbok set up and Rassie saw this was a player the country at large could rally around and get behind. The sound of Kaunda Ntunja introducing Siya in his 1st test brings back fond memories of a great turning point in Springbok rugby.
Since taking over the reigns as captain, Siya Kolisi has lead the Springboks to a Rugby Championship title (2019), The Rugby World Cup (2019), a series win against the British & Irish Lions (2021) and he is now facing the challenge of the Rugby Championship again, with the added pressure of the 100th test against the All Blacks looming.
“That’s our goal, to be No.1 for as long as we can. That’s been the drive for us. We don’t want to be a one-off and then disappear.”
There is no doubt about it; this Springbok side is a different beast to the one under the tutelage of Allister Coetzee. It is a well-known concept in rugby that a team’s commitment in defence is a good indicator of the side’s willingness to play for one another, or better put, “willingness to go to those dark places.” In years gone by, the Springboks were horrendous in this department, with All Black fans constantly reminding us of that 57 – 0 hammering back in 2017.
Aside from what can be seen on field and the results being produced by the team at the moment, the greatest achievement under Siya has been the restoration of pride in the green and gold. The Springboks mean something again, they are a powerful side and you can see the drive from the players to be a part of that. You can see the hunger to wear the jersey has returned and the players are playing for one another, to the bitter end.
With this in mind, it is then obvious why the Springboks boast the best defence in World Rugby. These players go the extra mile, and they believe in one another and back one another fully. Ordinarily when a side makes wholesale changes, the defensive system is the first thing that fails. However against Argentina, it was an entirely revamped backline, with none of the Boks usual defensive captains on the field in any position, yet the structures stood firm.
The Springboks have also managed to build a great amount of squad depth and this is assisting them greatly as they have suffered injuries to a number of key players. In the last 6 Springbok test s, we have seen Siya Kolisi earn his 50th cap (World Cup Final), he has since been joined by Steven Kitshoff, Damian De Allende, Handre Pollard and this weekend is Lood de Jager’s turn. With this experience, they have similarly managed to blood youngsters as well such as Fassi, Wiese and Dweba to name a few.
The respect and friendship between players and coaches is evident in everything they do , and Etzebeth and Siya particularly epitomize everything SA Rugby stands for. It is testament to the structures that Kolisi can safely leave the field at around the 60 minute mark and entrust the team and leadership group to play on and carry the game to finality.
There is no player better suited to lead the Springboks through the Rugby Championship and Kolisi has earned the right to take this Springbok side into battle against the might All Blacks in the 100th test between these two great rugby nations. It will be an extremely special occasion for Southern Hemisphere Rugby and one that fans on both sides have been eagerly awaiting for almost two years.
He leads a team with several stalwarts, extremely well. He is the leader Springbok rugby needed to turn the corner, and now he has the privilege of being able to push the team to new heights and to build the Springbok legacy, whilst writing his own story in the green and gold.