Since the conclusion of the 2023 World Cup, it seems that Siya Kolisi’s smiling face has been appearing on every newspaper, TV show, billboard and website possible. His charismatic leadership style and genuine soft nature has gained the double-World Cup winner admiration from all around the globe.
His strong perception of what is right and wrong, as well as his ability to bring communities together, has not been an overnight win. It’s been the coming together of a man who has spent 32 years experiencing all that can be offered from life, whether that be good, bad or indifferent.
Sitting down with former Wales captain, Dan Biggar, the Springbok captain discussed the struggles that he faced as a teenager and opened up about the perils of working at a bar in his hometown: “I was a bartender when I was 16, illegally. Sometimes people would throw tear gas in but I couldn’t run away because I had to stand at the till and close my eyes,
“There were people being stabbed at the door but people carry on partying. I had a violent childhood. I got into a fight and he stabbed me as I was walking away, so I went back and we fought some more.”
Kolisi was keen to explain just how he found himself in that violent world in the first place: “South Africa is number one in the world in gender-based violence. My aunt and my mum were the first people I knew that were being abused,
“In my community, you see it so many times that it becomes normal. That’s not good, being immune to things like that. If a man and a woman argued then it would end up in a fight, because men don’t really speak.
“I learnt to speak by going through therapy. I had to go to marriage counselling because I couldn’t give everything to my wife, because my heart was so hard and I didn’t know how to speak.
“In my late 20s, I started talking to someone and the first time I went she said: ‘You are damaged in every level. The stuff that you saw is not normal’.
“It’s extreme, it’s bad. You have to speak about it, get through it. That’s why you grow up and your heart is so hard. Something happens in the community, you fight with someone, forgive them, and you move on. That’s normal in my neighbourhood.”
As we saw very clearly post World Cup final, the Springbok captain is not afraid to talk about his feelings, and he expresses very clearly the reasons why he needs to speak out.
Two months working in France chatting to the players in person, hearing the passion from South African fans, and seeing the tears after the final whistle…this win means more to this country than many of us can fathom.
— Jack Tunney (@JackTunneyRugby) October 31, 2023
“A lot of people have been in a dark place but you could see their joy when we travelled around South Africa,” he said. “It’s like they had been waiting for something to lift them. Some people couldn’t afford to watch us at home during the World Cup because you have to pay for the TV. People started opening up malls at 10pm to watch us play. Different backgrounds, different races, all sitting together.
“When I was younger, living in the township, my mindset was survival. How do I make it through the day? Now I want to encourage people in the township to think big. Have wild dreams.
“We don’t want it to end on the rugby field. “We can play rugby and what are you remembered for? I know that some women won’t get stuff to help prevent them being abused and some kids won’t get their meals if I give up. All of that is what keeps me going every day.”
Dan Biggar later described the conversation with Kolisi as “one of the most surreal and inspiring conversations I’ve had,” before adding that it was “one that will live with me for a long time”.
Read the full interview Daly Mail interview here.