The evolution of Siyamthanda Kolisi
I WONDER if, one year ago, Siya Kolisi thought that he’d be anywhere close to where he is now.
From being appointed as the Stormers captain at the start of the Super Rugby season, to starting in all three Tests for the Springboks against France during the Incoming Tour, there have a few special moments for the loose forward this season. And the best part is, the season is not even over yet.
He has certainly come a long way since making his international debut back in 2013. He has greatly evolved from being an in-between flanker whose catching and passing skills could possibly have been seen as a weakness. And he no longer seems to be chained to the fetcher role or feeling the detrimental effects that being “pigeonholed” to it can have on a player like him.
And his performances this year have been testament to that.
Captaincy has served Kolisi well. It has served him extremely well. He got his career as captain off to the best possible start with a convincing 37-24 win over their old foes, the Bulls, at Newlands in their Super Rugby opener.
He’s thrilled in the Stormers jersey with his exciting performances, whether by way of slick offloads or elusive runs.
Yes, the Stormers suffered harsh defeats on their tour to New Zealand under Kolisi (he was also rested in one of those games), but he can’t be held responsible on his own for those defeats.
Anyway, fast forward to June 10, and Kolisi wrote a whole new chapter on his career as a Springbok.
It’s no surprise that last year, ahead of the Springboks’ first Test against Ireland at Newlands and Kolisi’s first Springbok start, he said that, in a way, it felt like it would be his first time playing for the Springboks.
Prior to that, all 13 of his appearances for the Boks have come off the bench. And I can’t see that becoming the norm again.
Kolisi was never even guaranteed a spot in the Bok matchday squad, never mind the starting line-up. I think it’s fair to say that Lions flanker Jaco Kriel was probably the fan favourite for the Springbok No 6 jersey, and the fact that Kolisi is no traditional fetcher didn’t strengthen his case either.
Oh, and let’s not forget that in South African rugby, having a bruiser in the loose trio is almost an absolute requirement. So Kolisi’s chances of cracking a spot at No 7 didn’t seem very likely either.
But he did start. He played in all three Tests and he did so admirably.
He made the No 6 jersey his own and he showed that he can be a complete menace on the ground, and his ability with ball in hand was highlighted greatly. He was also hard-hitting when it came to making tackles.
During the second Test in Durban, one day after Kolisi’s 26th birthday, he produced arguably one of the best individual Springbok performances that we’ve seen in a long time and his best performance ever as he had a massive hand in the Boks’ second victory. He was involved in three of the Springboks’ four tries as he scored a fantastic intercept try after sprinting almost half of the length of the field to cross the line, and he sent passes to Elton Jantjies and Jan Serfortein to put them away.
He made several crucial turnovers and he was an absolute monster on defence as the Boks celebrated a 37-15 victory and clinched the series with a Test to spare.
And in the third Test, he was no let-down either.
And to think that we still have the Rugby Championship and the end-of-year tour... well, I can’t wait to see how much more Kolisi grows. Because if his growth in the last few months is anything to go by, then there’s no telling what this man can still achieve in the Springbok set-up.
Future Bok captain, perhaps? And what a powerful signal of change that would be for our country.