New Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said yesterday his focus will be on living up to the faith that has been put in him by national coach Rassie Erasmus and the rest of the team.
“I’m only focusing on the positive and not on what people think of me. The coach has not put a lot of pressure on me, I must just be myself and make sure I play well. I want to inspire,” Kolisi said at Montecasino in his impressive first press conference as Springbok captain.
“But the captaincy means a lot to me, it is a huge privilege and honour and I don’t even remember what the coach said when he announced it to the team. I was just shocked and overwhelmed and just shaking hands with everyone. I’m not a man of words, but I’ve gained more confidence in leading and speaking and getting out of my comfort zone.”
After 127 years of white Springbok captains, Kolisi’s appointment is historic as the first black to receive the honour.
But the 26-year-old said he was the captain for all of South Africa. Especially in the light of the racist backlash he had to endure on Twitter following his appointment on Monday.
“The coach showed a photo of us playing and from behind you can see all the people supporting us. They come from every single race.
“I know Rassie well, he’s always very straight and he’s not that type of person to appoint me because of my colour,” said Kolisi, who is set become the Boks’ 61st Test captain in the first Test against England at Ellis Park on June 9.
“Sometimes people will be unhappy when you get chosen, life is like that, but I don’t focus on what they say. When I moved from the township to Grey High School on a scholarship my dreams suddenly became bigger. I want to change that, I want us to be able to keep everyone in the township and make sure they can still compete.
“It would be awesome if we didn’t need to take them out of the township, because those kids now have to look up to people they can’t relate to. Only once I went to Grey I had everything I needed, but if the kids in the township could have all those resources and facilities, then that is transformation for me,” Kolisi said.
Kolisi is one of 17 players in the squad who stayed home as a team led by lock Pieter-Steph du Toit left for Washington where they take on Wales on Saturday.