Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has said that barring injury or some unforeseen circumstance, Siya Kolisi will captain South Africa at the World Cup in Japan next year.
“There are still some people who would love to see the Boks fail; some people still upset about the past,” admitted Erasmus in a media interview ahead the Barbarians match at Twickenham in London at the weekend.
“Siya doesn’t get positive feedback everywhere he goes.
“But the way he’s handled it so far I’ve got no doubt that, barring injury or something really bad going wrong, he’ll be our captain through to Japan.”
Kolisi was happy to be just one of the boys at Twickenham on Saturday. Neither team leader nor the focal point of his entire nation.
For one day only, South Africa’s first black Test rugby captain got to play international rugby without a care. To pull on the Barbarians jersey for a match of zero consequence.
“It is tough, you carry the weight of the whole country as Bok captain,” he said. “And after the England series, I won’t lie, I was drained. My face was in every newspaper – and I’m not that kind of person. I’m shy, I keep myself to myself.
“But I understand how big a deal it is. That it has given hope to kids from a similar background to me that can now say ‘we can be like that’ – people, black and white, who had been told they could and would never make it.
“Never in a million years could I have dreamt of getting the opportunity to become Springbok captain. Where I come from, you dream of being a taxi driver.”
That place was a township where Kolisi was born to teenage parents and raised in a shack by his grandmother, where his only toy was a brick.
The incredible rise of Kolisi from an impoverished township to leading South Africa against England as the Springboks’ first black rugby captain
And South Africa’s first black president, whom he calls Tata (father) and whose image he has tattooed on his back, is his guiding light.
“Tata wanted everyone to be equal, to have the same opportunities, to get along,” said Kolisi, who has a white wife. “And while life is still challenging and not everything has changed, we are getting there.
“That’s what I want people to see from our rugby team. One of my best friends is Eben Etzebeth.
“We come from two different backgrounds, he’s Afrikaans and I’m Xhosa, but we get along. That’s the South Africa we want.”