Kolisi - a Green & Gold, father & son reunion
Saturday will be an emotional day for Siya Kolisi as he finally gets to don the Green and Gold and become the first Springbok from Zwide township.
But while the emotion of reaching the pinnacle of his career isn’t enough, the flanker will share it with his father Fezakele – who will be specially flown up by the South African Rugby Union to attend the game and watch his son become an international test player. (Kolisi has paid for his father to be in Nelspruit as the perfect Father's day gift, but SARU have assisted in making all the arrangements for him to get to the game)
It isn’t hard to feel the emotion surrounding Kolisi’s selection on the bench to face Scotland this weekend. Having grown up in tough circumstances, he literally lifted himself from the dusty township streets to become one of the best players in South Africa and one who has been knocking on the Springbok door for some time now.
The daunting travel arrangements will see Fezakele Kolisi board his first plane in his life, and fly from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg before he catches a connecting flight to Nelspruit to see his son play. It will only be the second time he has seen Siya play as he was raised by his grandmother after his mother Phakama died when he was just 15.
The travel arrangements have been a tough one for SA Rugby to get past, especially with the limited flights that intersect at exactly the right time for his father to get to the stadium in time to watch his son play.
In a way rugby has played a massive part in his reunion with his father, who wasn’t active in his life for most of his childhood. Considering his mother was only 16 when she fell pregnant, and his father 18, times were tough for the Kolisi household with Kolisi often going to bed hungry.
But now this weekend the joy of finally achieving something magical will be reality for Kolisi, who is very excited his father is coming to see him play.
“He is going to be more emotional than me, I mean I am the first Springbok from the township where I come from,” Kolisi told journalists after the team selection was announced.
“He is going to be a very proud dad, and he is going to cry a bit and I will probably join him.”
“I am really happy but it isn't only about me, it is about everybody that’s been supporting me everyone in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.”
But while he will have loads of support this weekend, Kolisi is the happiest that his father will be there.
“He’s always been backing me and that is why I’ve always stayed positive, he’s been encouraging me all the time.”
There were those who called for his elevation to the Bok squad last year but while coach Heyneke Meyer resisted, Kolisi was included in the young guns squad – a sextet of players who were seen as being ready to make the step up within a year. Since then three others have already become Boks.
“It is a huge privilege for me but I kind of knew it would come somewhere along the line.”
Kolisi though is far from the young player that many see on the field, he has a mature head on him, and immediately understands the responsibility that has been thrust upon his shoulders.
“It is a great thing for me and I have to be a role model,” he said beaming with pride.
“As a Springbok it is not only about rugby, it’s the things you do off the field.”
“I am willing to learn and I am willing to do anything to stay in the team and it will be better for my rugby.”
And while there will be millions supporting him this weekend, Kolisi will have the one thing he never had before – his father in the stands.
That in itself makes his journey such a magical celebration of the Springbok jersey.