News24 Wire
Wire Service
2 minute read
2 Nov 2019
9:11 am

Siya Kolisi’s mentor on what it takes to nurture a future Bok captain

News24 Wire

Eric Songwiqi, the man who mentored Springbok captain Siya Kolisi after spotting him as a youngster, lights up as he talks about the Boks' first black Test captain.

Pumeza Gadu of the Eastern Province provincial women’s rugby team and coach Eric Songwiqi celebrate at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium after winning the interprovincial women’s title on September 14, 2011 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / The Herald / Fredlin Adriaan)

One would imagine that since Kolisi’s appointment last year by coach Rassie Erasmus, Songwiqi has had to tell the story numerous times to both local and international journalists. One, however, cannot miss the joy on his face as he speaks about Kolisi.

His well-documented rags-to-riches story, a once in a generation one, prompts the question as to how many other Kolisis can be found and supported within the system.

Songwiqi is clear: when discipline and determination meet, that is the recipe for success.

He also points to discipline from the player and keen determination from mentors to nurture their young talents.

“Communication is very important [from mentors] as well as monitoring… you aren’t necessarily controlling the child, but you try and control the situation.

“Stay in contact with young talents as mentors,” Songwiqi said.

It has certainly worked for Songwiqi. Some of the players he has coached are now fully involved in the administration of African Bombers, the rugby club in Zwide, Port Elizabeth, which is a huge part of Kolisi’s story.

On managing players and expectations, he said it helped that he was a teacher as it allowed him to connect better with children.

“You would look to honing the raw talent that many of these children possess, because the talent is certainly there.

Ripple effect

“When Kolisi was named captain, it was an exuberant moment not only for me, but for the community of Zwide at large.

“I felt that I changed the trajectory of someone else.”

Changing Kolisi’s life, said Songwiqi, had a ripple effect in how young people viewed their opportunities in life.

He listed some of Kolisi’s best attributes: humility, generosity and a man with impeccable manners.

Songwiqi wished the Boks well for the final on Saturday when they take on England in Yokohama, Japan, saying: “You have made us proud already… bring that Webb Ellis Cup home.”

The match is expected to kick off at 11:00. Sport24  will be bringing you the latest on the coverage in the lead-up to the game.

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