Siya not feeling extra pressure
He knows there are people who want him to make a statement as a so-called black African in the Springbok team, but Siya Kolisi says that while he understands the responsibility he has, his view is that he is just another player in the national team.
The 20-year-old was selected as part of the 30-man squad for the Argentina leg of The Castle Rugby Championship after being a controversial omission from the group that played the series against England.
A product of the Eastern Cape, Kolisi says his phone hasn’t stopped ringing and the SMS messages have flowed uninterrupted since his selection was announced.
“Myself and JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls wing) both played schools rugby in Port Elizabeth so there has been a lot of support from down there,” said Kolisi.
“I know there is also pressure on me as a black player from people back home who see me as their representative in the squad, and I understand that, but the way I look at it is that I am just another member of the Springbok squad and don’t see myself as being different to any other player. So it doesn’t put any extra pressure on me.”
With the Springbok loose trio of Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts and Marcell Coetzee pretty established after the England series, Kolisi doesn’t expect to be playing a big on-field role in The Rugby Championship – but then he has been in this space before so knows he must be ready.
At the start of the year Kolisi wasn’t expected to play much of a part in the Stormers’ Super Rugby campaign. He ended up playing every game except for when he was injured, and was seen as an influential part of the drive to a first ever top-of-the-log finish for the Cape franchise.
“I know that I will not necessarily get to play for the Springboks just yet as there are other players ahead of me, but then that was what I thought at the Stormers at the start of the year and look what happened.
So I know I have to be ready as you never know what might happen,” said the former Eastern Cape schoolboy star.
“When the season started I was not in the Stormers' starting team, but then Schalk Burger got injured 15 minutes into the first game and I had to step up and play after that. I wouldn’t say I was happy about it as Schalk was an important player so it wasn’t good for the team that he was injured.
But I had to embrace the challenge and take the opportunity, and that is what I did.
“I will do the same again if the opportunity comes for me at Springbok level. It does help quite a bit that I already got a feel of the squad when I trained with the Springbok group during the series against England.
That gave me a taste of what it was like and a feel of the culture. I know the game we are looking to play and understand the role I would play if called upon to go onto the field.”
Kolisi says that after meeting with the coaches it has been made clear to him that while his ability to play anywhere in the loose trio is valued, it was as an openside flanker that he was selected.
“My understanding is that I will be playing a similar role to the one that I do at the Stormers. In other words it won’t be about me being pressured to make a lot of turnovers, I will have a big role as a tackler. Heyneke
(Meyer) has also told me he wants me to become a lineout option and a better ball-carrier who gets the team across the advantage line so those are things I am working at.
“It’s all about improving and learning. I am learning all the time. I was pleased to be selected for the Springboks but thought I had worked hard enough to get there. But making the Springboks is the easy part compared to the challenge of ensuring that I stay there.”