Siya Kolisi plays it down as he prepares to make SA rugby history
First black Springboks captain says he’ll be focused on his performance against England
Siya Kolisi, who will lead the Springboks against England at Ellis Park: “Obviously I have an idea of how big it is, but I’m just trying to focus on the main thing and that’s playing well.” Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Siya Kolisi insists his landmark moment in South African sporting history will only truly sink in when he runs out at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Kolisi will become the first black player to captain the Springboks’ Test team in their 126-year history when England visit Johannesburg, completing a remarkable rise to the pinnacle of the sport on these shores.
The 26-year-old flanker was raised in poverty in Port Elizabeth’s Zwide township where his sole focus was “to get a meal at the end of the day”, but now he carries the expectations of a nation on his shoulders.
“I think tomorrow [Saturday] will be the first time that everything comes together for me and I’ll realise how big this moment is,” Kolisi said.
“Ellis Park has a really special feel. When you hear the national anthem being sung and you scan the crowd, you see the whole of South Africa in front of you . . . all different races and colours.
“It’s really beautiful and one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. The crowd always gets behind us and for some reason we always bring our best when we turn up here.
“It’s a special one and that’s why it’s such a big occasion and that’s why I’m looking forward to it.”
The build-up to Kolisi’s 29th cap has been spent trying not to become overawed by the wider meaning of his appointment by coach Rassie Erasmus, but he is ready to usher in a “new chapter” in Springbok rugby.
“I’m a very calm guy and the most important thing is that I play well. If I put outside pressure on myself it will get too much for me,” he said.
“I’ll try to keep as busy as I can by playing. I think after the three games in the series I will probably sit down and have a moment.
“Obviously I have an idea of how big it is, but I’m just trying to focus on the main thing and that’s playing well.
“The coach has made it quite simple for me. He says the only thing he really wants from me is to perform.
“We’ve worked really hard to be here and our dream is to play for South Africa and to play against England.
“We don’t know when we’ll get this opportunity again . . . maybe next week someone else will play, so tomorrow this is the beginning of a new chapter.”