JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – New Springboks captain Siya Kolisi wants to be an inspiration to all South Africans and not just those in the black communities where his appointment has been widely celebrated this week.
The 26-year-old loose forward was named as the first black test captain of the Boks for their home three-test series against England next month.
He told reporters on Wednesday some people had cynically suggested his appointment was an attempt by South African Rugby to attain transformation targets set by the government but he felt it was his form and leadership of the Stormers in Super Rugby that won him favour with coach Rassie Erasmus.
“I can’t control what other people think of me, I can only control what I can do on the field‚” Kolisi said. “I think it is a genuine appointment by coach Rassie because he is not that kind of a person.
“I have known him since I was 18 years old. We sat down and he was straightforward with me and that is how it is. You always know where you stand with him.
“The most important thing is that we play and win rugby matches, and to work hard on my game so that I can help my country and the coach who has showed so much faith in me.”
Kolisi added that even 24 years after South Africa’s first democratic elections that officially signalled the end of Apartheid, it was still a “big deal” to have a black captain of the national rugby side.
“Coach Rassie is not a politician and neither am I. I’m a rugby player and all I want to do is to play well and inspire South Africans of all races,” he said.
“I know how much of a big deal this thing is for the country and it will take a while to register. But what is important now is to make everybody and my coach who selected me proud.”
Kolisi has been the target of social media trolls in the past as his wife Rachel is white, with the pair now likely to draw even more attention.
“When I told my wife‚ she put the phone down on me. But she called me back and asked me to repeat what I was saying,” Kolisi said. “Obviously it was before it was announced but she was so happy that she wanted to tell people.
“I have spoken to my family back home (in the Eastern Cape) and everybody is happy for me. But my father says people have been calling him and trying to get interviews every day. It’s getting too much for him.”
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)