Siyamthanda Kolisi (Siya Kolisi), born on 16 Jun 1991, height: 6′ 2″, is at the forefront of South African rugby. A kid from the townships who was born with nothing, whose parents were too young and too poor to raise him and so entrusted him to his grandmother. A rugby obsessive who played without kit, whose mother died when he was 15 and whose grandmother died in his arms a few months later. The loose forward is the Springbok (South African National Team) captain and also leads the Stormers Super Rugby franchise. Having represented his country in age-group World Cups, the man they call ‘The Bear’ burst onto the top tier rugby scene in 2012 at just 20-years-old, when he made his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers.
A dynamic player, with a rare blend of speed and power he is comfortable on both sides of the scrum and impressed many with a series of electric performances. He got injured late in that first season but bounced back in 2013, when, at the tender age of 21, he made his Springbok debut vs Scotland. He came off the bench early in the match and managed to put in a Man-of The-Match performance. A sign of things to come.
Siya continued to turn in consistently outstanding performances on the field, and backed this up with growing leadership skills and professionalism. He was ultimately rewarded with the Stormers captaincy in 2017 and, in 2018 was named Springbok captain number 61.
Making history as the first black rugby captain in 127-year history of South African test rugby. It was an iconic moment for the man who rose to international stardom from humble beginnings in an Eastern Cape township. To date he has played 107 Super Rugby games and earned 41 Springbok caps.
Siyamthanda Kolisi Biography and Profile
Early Years: Rags to Riches Story
Siya Kolisi stands as a critical link between the past and future. Kolisi stands as a critical link between the past and future. He was born on 16 June 1991, one day before the repeal of apartheid – brutal laws that enforced discrimination against black people in every aspect of their lives. Separate land. Separate public transport. Separate schools. Kolisi’s mother, Phakama, was 16 when Siya was born and his father, Fezakele, was in his final year of school. Kolisi’s mother died when he was 15, leaving his late grandmother, Nolulamile, to raise him.
Kolisi said, “It’s tough to stay on the right path because sometimes hunger makes you do things that you never thought you would do. Some of my friends would steal and some passed away because they got into bad things.”
Kolisi “never dreamed of being a rugby player” as a child and now says the sport was “my way out”.
After trying rugby for the first time when he was seven years old, Kolisi not only quickly took an immediate liking to it, but stood out so much that at the age of 10 he was spotted by his primary school trainer, Eric Songwiqi, who brought him up to the local club, African Bombers.
At the age of 12, Kolisi impressed scouts at a youth tournament in Mossel Bay and was awarded a bursary at the leading Port Elizabeth rugby school, Grey High, where Ireland’s incoming attack coach, Mike Catt, was also once a pupil.
Kolisi’s star grew through the Eastern Province Kings youth set-up between 2007 and 2009. He played in the famed Under-18 Craven Week and for the SA schools team before being offered his first contract at Western Province at age of 18 by Rassie Erasmus.
Kolisi played for the South African under-20s side in the 2010 and 2011 IRB Junior World Championships, and in 2012 he graduated to the Stormers squad before making his Springbok debut in June 2013 against Scotland at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. He replaced the injured Arno Botha in the fifth minute and was named man of the match in a 30-17 win.
All the while, Kolisi’s roots remain in Zwide, which he frequently revisits.
“He was from my primary school, Emsengeni Primary, and I took him to the local club, African Bombers. I also coached him there,” Songwiqi said last week.
“Even then, he showed discipline and those leadership qualities. Working with the other boys, they understood one another. There were two other boys who also did well. But Siya as an individual, I could see he would reach the highest point in life in rugby.
South Africa Rugby Captain Siya Kolisi
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi did not have a television at home the last time the Springboks played in the Rugby World Cup final but 12 years on leads his team out in Saturday’s decider against England in a remarkable rags to riches story. From growing up in a dusty, poverty-stricken township on the eastern coast of South Africa to the Yokohama International Stadium caps a remarkable journey for Kolisi, the first black man to captain the Springboks and now increasingly a new symbol for South African unity.
“For a young kid from Zwide township in Port Elizabeth to rise above circumstances and become Springbok captain and lead the way‚ he has just been inspirational to South Africans from all walks of life‚” teammate Tendai Mtawarira said.
Kolisi grew up in one of the few black areas where rugby is as popular as soccer, raised by his paternal grandmother, but did not pick up a rugby ball until he was seven. His talent was quickly recognised, though for Kolisi rugby was no more than a distraction from life’s daily toil.
“It’s tough to stay on the right path because sometimes hunger makes you do things that you never thought you would do,” he explained before the kick-off of the World Cup last month.
“Some of my friends would steal and some died because they got into bad things.”
But Kolisi’s talent gave him an opportunity to get away from temptation as he won a bursary to Port Elizabeth’s top boys school Grey High, but even then going onto be a Springbok and play in a World Cup was furthest from his mind.
“You don’t dream about that where I am from,” he said.
“He adapted well to the posh school but it was on the rugby field where he excelled. Siya was rewarded with a call-up to the South African Schools team and a contract to join Western Province,” added his biographer Jeremy Daniel.
Kolisi was 16 when South Africa edged England in the 2007 final in Paris.
“I was watching it in a tavern, because I didn’t have a TV at home.”
Siya is passionate about helping and creating opportunities for the less fortunate and, as a globally-known face recognizes he has a platform to utilize his influence to help change the world for the better.
South Africa Defeats England in Rugby World Cup
South Africa laid the groundwork with traditional Springbok rugby and finished an out-gunned England side off with two late tries to win the World Cup for the third time courtesy of a 32-12 victory on Saturday 2 November 2019. The English suffered a huge blow when prop Kyle Sinckler went off with concussion in the third minute leaving their scrum all but uncompetitive against the Springbok pack.
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said the country’s underprivileged children should “keep dreaming and keep believing” as he carried the Rugby World Cup trophy through thousands of fans on the team’s return home on Tuesday.
His rags-to-riches tale has been inspirational for many, and the raucous welcome the side received showcased the full range of the Rainbow Nation as fans from all walks of life spent hours waiting for a glimpse of the players as they emerged in groups from different flights. The biggest cheer was reserved for Kolisi, who grew up in an impoverished township and has written his name not only into rugby folklore but also into the history of South Africa as a beacon of hope for those who face a bleak future.
“The kids must keep dreaming and keep believing,” he told reporters. “Anything can be overcome. When I was young, I was just focused on going to training each day, preparing myself for the opportunity just in case it ever came.
“I am proof it can be done. We don’t want it to be so tough for anybody else, we want to make it easier in the future.”
Kolisi said the players felt the support from back home during their time in Japan, with a TV screen in their hotel constantly replaying videos from fans, or images of ordinary South Africans celebrating their victories. He added that the team had also been inspired by messages from tennis great Roger Federer, whose mother was born in South Africa, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“I am a huge Federer fan, so when he sent the message it was special. Tom Brady as well, that was amazing for us as a team.”
The Boks’ next encounter will be against an as yet unnamed opponent in the 2020 June International window, and Kolisi is hopeful that the core of the World Cup-winning side will be kept together.
“We would love to stay together as a team, but that will be down to the coach. A lot of us have committed to staying in South Africa for that,” Kolisi said.
Superb game management, set piece dominance, brutal defence and almost flawless place-kicking had been enough to see off an England side that had dismantled the double defending champion All Blacks in the semi-finals. While the tactics were as traditional as the dark green Springbok shirt, the team was far more representative of a multi-racial nation than those of 1995 and 2007 and Siya Kolisi became the first black captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
Siya’s Father Flew to Japan: Kolisi’s father, Fezakel, was faced with a race against time to fly to Japan and watch his son lead South Africa out in Yokahama. Fezakel didn’t have a passport and had never left his homeland prior to this weekend, meaning he required the support of South Africa’s team management to help him fast track the necessary documents in time to fly to Japan ahead of the game. Rugby commentator Sean Maloney revealed Fezakel’s trip required a military-like 26-hour operation to ensure he reached Yokohama in time for kick-off.
‘I spoke to the SA team management,’ he said. ‘They had a 26-hour timeline for Kolisi’s dad to fly from a township to Yokohama, Japan, he didn’t have a passport and had never flown. They got it all organised and he is here, on hand, to see his son lift the biggest prize at all.
Kolisi had his father and two children with him in Yokohama, while his half-brother and sister – who he found and adopted – were watching back in South Africa. The flanker revealed his pride at making his family proud and hopes South Africa’s World Cup success can be used as a political tool to create a united future for his country.
‘I am hoping we given people a little bit of hope,’ he said. ‘We have won for our country and I hope this can make our country better. You can never forget where you’ve come from and the people that have been with you through life.
‘I want to celebrate this with my father as this was something he was never able to do for me. I wanted to do it for him. Hoping my brother and sister take in some of this too. I wish I had them here.’
Speaking after the triumph, a humble Kolisi paid tribute to how his family have supported him and urged his nation to come together as one.
He said: “Our wives take a lot of hits, we’re never at home. The ones looking after our children. All I want to do is just inspire our kids and every other kid in South Africa. I never dreamed of a moment like this, at all. And there’s a lot of us out there in South Africa. All we need is an opportunity. I got my opportunity and I took it with both hands – there are so many stories like this that need to be told in South Africa. I’m hoping we’ve just given people a little hope to pull together.”
Thanks to coach Rassie Erasmus, the Springbok team is more racially diverse than ever before. Kolisi was swiftly appointed captain, in a momentous move, and on Saturday he won his 50th cap in the biggest fixture of all. In the build-up to their win over England, South Africa’s prop Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira, 34, said: “What Siya has achieved is remarkable.
Here are five reasons why coach Rassie Erasmus made the right call.
It’s one of those traits that’s hard to define but impossible to miss. When Kolisi walks into a room‚ people tend to notice and when he speaks‚ they listen.
He is only 26 but has more maturity and clarity than many players older than him. Coming from a humble background‚ losing his mother when he was 15 and having to fend for himself from a young age is part of it. But he has also adopted his half siblings as their legal guardian and he is ploughing back into the Zwide rugby community where he grew up. For Kolisi‚ being a rugby player is only a small part of who he is.
He stands for inclusivity and regularly reminds players in the Stormers team that they cannot think they are playing for one group of people over another. No one is seen as superior to another. He is also happy to allow other voices when it comes to decision-making.
In a game of macho alpha males‚ fragile egos and brittle mental weaknesses are seldom addressed. But Kolisi is a leader who likes to put his arm around a teammate and offer a safe space to confront his shortcomings. Kolisi leads by example and is always the first player to accept responsibility for mistakes.
In 2017 he was the best loose forward in the Bok group and has shown that he can hold his own in the team regardless of his leadership status.
“We’re very proud of him and we want to make it very special for him on Saturday. It would be amazing for South Africa to win the World Cup. With Siya, the road he has walked is an inspirational enough already, but to see him lift the World Cup would be amazing.”
“Since I have been alive I have not seen South Africa like this,” Kolisi said before receiving the trophy from Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino.
“His story is unique,” Hanyani Shimange, former Springboks prop, told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
“Previous generations of black rugby players were not given the same opportunities, purely because of South Africa’s laws. He’s living the dream of people who weren’t given the same opportunities as him.
“He’s grabbed those opportunities. He’s a good man, a humble individual.
“He’s got a lot of time for people, probably too much time in some instances. But he’s the same Siya he was six years ago. He loves rugby, and the team loves him.”
Siya Kolisi Urged to Run for South African President
SIYA KOLISI was urged to run for president of South Africa after becoming the first black captain to lift the Rugby World Cup. He hoisted aloft the Webb Ellis Cup after guiding his side to a thumping 32-12 win against England in the showpiece in Yokohama. Speaking after the game South Africa legend Bryan Habana spoke passionately about how 28-year-old Kolisi has united a nation, and urged him to run for president. The captain wore the No6 jersey – iconic in itself.
When Nelson Mandela presented Francois Pienaar with the 1995 Rugby World Cup trophy, a nation was changed for ever. The freedom fighter and anti-Apartheid revolutionary handed over the Webb Ellis Cup wearing that same No6. The image of Mandela shaking hands with Pienaar – a man brought up to believe the legendary leader was a terrorist – shattered at once decades of institutionalised racism. Some 24 years on, Kolisi has become the first black man of any country to captain his side to World Cup glory. It should be a moment that transcends sport.
Off the field, Siyamthanda Kolisi is a family man. Since 2014, his half-siblings, Liyema and Liphelo, children of his late mother, have been part of the Kolisi household, after five years in orphanages and foster care in Port Elizabeth.
He married Rachel Smith, a former marketing executive, in 2016.
On their wedding website, Siya recounts his experience of courting her:
“I knew I liked her and had to tell her. It was scary. I asked her to lunch and that’s when I told her. She played hard to get in the beginning, but eventually admitted it as well. The rest is history. We have a beautiful family and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her.”
Rachel Smith Kolisi adds:
“I was there when he came out of the bush after his circumcision, when he played in the World Cup and the day he gave his life to Jesus. The birth of our son, Nicholas, and having Liphelo and Liyema join us in Cape Town have been the most incredible blessings by far.”
Apart from sporting events, Siya Kolisi and Rachel Smith Kolisi always enjoyed each others’ company.
Rachel Smith Kolisi says: “We’ve had many special times together.”
Siyamthanda Kolisi Biography and Profile