Rugby, kids and ro­mance

Spring­bok flank Siya Kolisi and fi­ancée Rachel Smith will seal their four-year courtship with a spit-braai wed­ding as unique as their bliss­ful fam­ily

CityPress - - News - BIÉNNE HUISMAN bi­enne.huisman@city­

All 105kg of Spring­bok flank Siya Kolisi trem­bled like a leaf when he asked Rachel Smith to marry him.

The cou­ple were seated in a he­li­copter, hov­er­ing over the Cape Town sub­urb of Con­stan­tia, in front of Ta­ble Moun­tain, and he was say­ing, “We’re go­ing to crash; this thing is go­ing to fall,” mo­ments be­fore pop­ping the ques­tion on De­cem­ber 12.

Speak­ing from the lounge of their Pinelands home this week, Rachel re­calls: “It was our first time in a he­li­copter and Siya was freak­ing out. His hands were sweat­ing and shak­ing.”

To­mor­row, the mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive who is now a full-time mother is sched­uled to have her first wed­ding dress fit­ting in Cape Town. The gown will be stitched by lo­cal fash­ion house Habits, but the rest is a sur­prise.

“I want to keep it a se­cret from Siya. I want him to be, like, ‘wow!’ when my fa­ther walks me down the aisle.”

Their black tie wed­ding in Au­gust will see guests treated to a spit braai among oak trees on a wine es­tate near Stel­len­bosch.

“We love a good braai,” says Rachel.

“And be­sides, rugby play­ers love eat­ing – th­ese guys are huge and need a lot of food.”

Rachel (26) and Siya (25) are par­ents to Nicholas Siyamthanda (1).

Two years ago, the cou­ple took cus­tody of Siya’s half­si­b­lings, Liyema (14) and Liph­elo (8), who spent five years in or­phan­ages and in fos­ter care in Port El­iz­a­beth af­ter their mother (also Siya’s mother) passed away in 2009. Liyema and Liph­elo are now en­rolled at a school in Cape Town.

Siya is of­ten away on rugby com­mit­ments, but Rachel has cre­ated a home for the three chil­dren.

“It is not so nor­mal try­ing to raise chil­dren with some­one con­stantly trav­el­ling. And it’s tough to just stay at home. But th­ese are sac­ri­fices I have de­cided to make, and one day I will con­tinue my ca­reer,” she says.

De­spite the chal­lenges, Rachel is quick to point out that they are lucky: “We are so blessed. Just the fact that we were fi­nan­cially ca­pa­ble of tak­ing in Siya’s lit­tle sib­lings af­ter they were in the sys­tem for so many years...”

When City Press met the fam­ily this week, Siya was out do­ing a pho­to­shoot for Adi­das. In­side the cou­ple’s home, a toy plas­tic mo­tor­bike was up­turned in front of a large, flat-screen TV.

In the kitchen, a steamy top­less pho­to­graph of Siya adorns a cab­i­net door.

“Just a lit­tle re­minder of who will be my hus­band in a few months’ time,” grins Rachel, blush­ing. So, what is it like to date a celebrity rugby player? “It is quite straight­for­ward. You learn to see quickly who is nice to you just be­cause you are dat­ing a Spring­bok. I have met some re­ally nice peo­ple, though.”

Last year, she trav­elled abroad for the first time to sup­port Siya in Lon­don dur­ing the rugby World Cup.

Rachel, from Gra­ham­stown, and Siya, from Zwide town­ship out­side Port El­iz­a­beth, fell in love four years ago af­ter meet­ing at a din­ner party in Stel­len­bosch.

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 adds: “We’ve had many spe­cial times to­gether. 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.”

Siya’s child­hood was tough, but his re­lent­less rugby prac­tice paid off. At the age of 12, he was given a schol­ar­ship to pres­ti­gious Port El­iz­a­beth school Grey Ju­nior and later to Grey High School.

Rachel says that she has the ut­most re­spect for the sport that con­sumes her man.

“Rugby has al­ways been a part of Siya. It came be­fore all of us – me and the kids. He played rugby with his dad. They were very poor and some nights there was no money for food, so his gran would give them sugar wa­ter. Rugby was the thing that helped him to grow and to win that schol­ar­ship.” She says trans­form­ing rugby is Siya’s great pas­sion. “Grow­ing up, he used to play alone on a dusty grass field. This is some­thing Siya feels strongly about: get­ting meals into th­ese kids and build­ing sta­di­ums in the town­ships where they can play.”

Siya’s fa­ther and a few of his un­cles will be among the guests at the cou­ple’s A-list wed­ding.

They plan to have a tra­di­tional wed­ding in the East­ern Cape at a later stage.

SPORT­ING CHANCE Siya Kolisi and Rachel Smith with their son, Nicholas, and Siya’s half-sib­lings, Liyema and Liph­elo

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