Despite widespread criticism for his thoughts on transformation and quotas, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi continues to project himself as a measured, conciliatory figure.
In an interview with CNN World Rugby, the 27-year-old flanker admits that he’s “very shy” and “(doesn’t) like the spotlight, but believes one of his biggest strengths as a leader is his ability to bring cultures within the squad together.
“The best way is to get to know people. Get to know who they are,” Kolisi told the American broadcaster.
“That’s what makes me a bit different, because I get along with every single guy on the team, and I’m black. Normally there are groups, but I can go to every single group. you understand each other a bit more, and they understand me a bit more.”
The national skipper also again talks frankly about the emotions he felt after becoming South Africa’s first black Test leader as well as the harsh and low expectations of most budding black rugby players.
“For me, things that we dreamed about were being a taxi driver or doing things that I’m not supposed to be doing,” said Kolisi.
“When I was a kid, there’s no way I would’ve dreamed of being Springbok captain.”
The huge burden of responsibility did, however, initially affect his personal game.
“My game went a little bit down, and it was tough. You can see with the stats and stuff. Even the coach would tell you that my game wasn’t up to standard.”
Once he grew into his leadership role, Kolisi’s form flourished again and he was considered the Boks’ best player in the Rugby Championship by the All Blacks’ coaching staff.