TOKYO (Reuters) – Springboks captain Siya Kolisi knows what an impact winning the Rugby World Cup can have on his country, having seen how uplifting victories in 1995 and 2007 were for South Africa.
On the eve of leading his team into a World Cup semi-final against Wales on Sunday, Kolisi is focussed on delivering another cherishable moment in the history of rugby in South Africa and as country as a whole.
South Africa’s victory on home soil at the 1995 World Cup, with Nelson Mandela presenting the Webb Ellis trophy to captain Francois Pienaar just one year after the end of apartheid, is seen as a springboard for change in the country.
Kolisi, as South Africa’s first black captain, knows delivering another World Cup in Japan could have a similar boost back home.
“We do have many different races in our country, and 11 different languages,” Kolisi said on Saturday.
“It is one of the positives of our country. I think it’s really beautiful. That’s why we are called the ‘Rainbow Nation’.”
“In the team as well we have different races, which is really beautiful.”
Kolisi’s promotion to captain last year was seen by many as a crucial step for South Africa, as rugby continues to break the shackles of its past image in a country where racial tensions in sport often spill over into politics.
Kolisi is aware of the responsibility on his broad shoulders and embraces it.
“It just shows that when we decide to work together for one goal or as a team and as a country, we can make anything happen, and achieve all the goals and dreams,” he said.
“That’s why we want to give our best this week, and hopefully play in the final next week. It would be huge for our country, as I’ve seen what it has done for the country before.
“I was old enough to remember the 2007 World Cup – I remember what it did for the country then, and I know what it would do now.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)