Springbok captain Siya Kolisi has become one of the most recognisable and influential figures in the international game today.
Leading the Boks to World Cup glory at the 2019 tournament, Kolisi played a key role in uniting a nation that has struggled in recent years with economic and political unrest.
Now back at the game’s global showpiece, Kolisi and the Boks are amongst the favourites to lift the trophy on the last weekend of October in Paris.
Remarkably, Kolisi’s participation at the tournament was in doubt until mere weeks ago as he continued to rehab a knee injury sustained whilst playing for the Hollywoodbets Sharks in the United Rugby Championship.
Following months of what would’ve been gruelling work with the Springbok medical team, Kolisi emerged like a phoenix from the ashes to return to the Springbok starting line-up against the All Blacks in Twickenham.
Seemingly not missing a beat during his absence, Kolisi was back to his dynamic best as a ball-carrying beast and breakdown menace.
Handing the All Blacks a record 35 – 7 defeat at Twickenham, the Boks arrived in Paris fizzing with confidence.
They needed all of this positivity in the face of what was a brutally tough opening match against an in-form Scotland side in Bordeaux on Saturday.
Leading by a mere three points at half-time, the Boks exploded into action early in the second half with two quick-fire tries. Stretching their lead to twelve points, the Boks then did what they do best and physically imposed their effective rush defence and set piece on the Scots.
In the end, the Boks wouldn’t score another point, but crucially, nor would Scotland, as Kolisi and his team sealed an 18 – 3 victory.
Speaking post-match, Kolisi highlighted what the Rugby World Cup meant to South Africans.
“It was tough in the first half, everything was close. They are an amazing side, and I want to give all credit to them and their team.” Kolisi said of Scotland. “We knew it was going to be a big challenge, and we were slow to get into the game and take opportunities.
“In the second half, we flicked the switch and took a mental note to take our opportunities, especially in the set piece.
“I am proud of the way the boys stood up in the second half.”
The Bok captain was then asked what it meant to him personally to recover from his knee injury and to be at the tournament.
“For me personally, it doesn’t matter whether it is a World Cup or a normal game; to wear this jersey is really amazing.
“We play for something far bigger than ourselves; we play for a country that is going through a lot of battles, but we have got such resilient people who are hard-working and don’t give up.
“So that’s where I got the energy from, and to be here and see so many South Africans we are so grateful. It’s been an amazing experience so far.” Kolisi concluded.