Erasmus praised Kolisi’s performances in the play-offs, as well as his ability to lead through actions and not just words
As the Springboks prepare for their shot at glory in tomorrow’s blockbusting World Cup final, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has hailed the inspirational abilities of his captain Siya Kolisi as “a wonderful story” .
Erasmus also stressed the significance of Kolisi being the first black Springbok captain in a World Cup final.
Kolisi will play his 50th Test for the Springboks in tomorrow’s final against England, six years after making his Test debut.
Kolisi, like Francois Pienaar did in 1995 win against the All Blacks, will wear the No 6 jersey.
Erasmus, when he first announced Kolisi as his captain, said: “I like him because he is humble, he is quiet and the way he is playing . . . he is not flashy.”
This week Erasmus emphasised that Kolisi calmness and humility were among the ingredients to the team’s successful recipe.
Erasmus praised Kolisi’s performances in the play-offs, as well as his ability to lead through actions and not just words.
Erasmus said Kolisi’s story from humble beginnings to Springbok captain would inspire a nation and the next generation of South African rugby player.
“It was never a plan of mine to appoint Siya just to get the country behind the Boks,” said Erasmus. “At the time, Siya was the best performing captain in South Africa. That’s the reason he became captain of the Boks.”
Erasmus admitted he underestimated the emotion around appointing the first ever black Springbok captain.
“I was a bit naïve in the sense that I didn’t know that this would become such a massive thing about the first black captain. All the emotional things that came with it, caught myself as well as Siya off-guard.”
Erasmus said he wasn’t as naïve any more, and now appreciates the significance of Kolisi leading out the Boks tomorrow.
“I think that Siya’s primed to have a really good game in the final. It should be a wonderful occasion with it being his 50th Test. For me, it has sunk in how big this is, the first black captain to lead the Boks in a World Cup final,” said Erasmus. “I am not so naïve any more. It is a wonderful story.”
The Springboks, to win the World Cup, would also make World Cup history because no team has ever lost a group match and won the tournament.
The Boks were beaten 23-13 by the All Blacks in their tournament opening match, but subsequently didn’t lose again in the pool stages. They beat Japan in the quarter-final and edged Wales 19-16 in the semi-final.
Kolisi earlier this week told the world media that the last time the Boks won the World Cup, in 2007, he watched the final at a tavern. He was 16 years-old and didn’t have a television at his home.
Much has changed in Kolisi’s life since and so much has changed within Springbok rugby.
Kolisi’s Boks are the most transformed in South Africa’s World Cup history and squad have won the hearts of everyone in Japan and in South Africa through their approach off the field and with their success on it.
Kolisi has captained the Springboks to 12 wins in his 19 Tests in charge and in 2018 he led the Boks to a home series win against England.
The Boks, who earlier this year won the Rugby Championship, will go into Saturday’s final ranked second in the world. Erasmus has been nominated as one of the coaches of the year and the Boks are also shortlisted for team of the year.