Kolisi reveals conversation with Erasmus that changed his life

"You are either going to stuff it up or realise that you can take this seriously.'

Siya Kolisi revealed a life-changing conversation he had with Rassie Erasmus while opening up on his close relationship with the Springbok coach.

Kolisi and Erasmus have worked together for most of the Springbok captain’s career. It was Erasmus who brought Kolisi to the Western Province academy and the two were reunited at the Springboks in 2018 after Erasmus returned from a short stint with Munster, appointing Kolisi as Springbok captain.

The duo has gone on to lead the Springboks to historic back-to-back World Cup triumphs in Japan and France, as well as a British & Irish Lions series victory in 2021.

During a wide-ranging interview with former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton on The Big Jim Show, Kolisi opened up on his relationship with Erasmus and a conversation they had that changed Kolisi for the better.

‘Stuff it up’

“Coach Rassie, people don’t speak enough about him. They don’t get him,” Kolisi told Hamilton.

“We get him. We understand. For me, he was the first guy who gave me a contract. I was signed to another team. He got me a lawyer and got me out of my contract, because I signed when I was underage and my parents weren’t there. Then I went to Western Province.

“When I was young, I drank a lot. I was living wild and I was just naughty. There were so many opportunities where he could’ve given up on me. I came to training drunk, I came to training late or something happened.

“I remember his last talk with me, before he went to Munster. He sat me down, with my best friend Scarra [Ntubeni], who has just played his 100th game for the Stormers against the Sharks. He said, ‘Listen, boys, you have a talent that can change your life and your families’ lives. You are either going to stuff it up or realise that you can take this seriously.’ Then he left.

“He came back to coach the Springboks and made me captain. I thought, ‘Don’t you remember our last conversation.’ He just backed me from the beginning. Even making me captain, he always kept me accountable. He knows the kind of person I am. He made the system that would make me look good. He put other people in leadership roles so I didn’t have to take everything upon me.


“He started speaking about the country, how things were in the past, how transformation is important. He started speaking about transformation, when in the past it was just a hidden thing. He’s upfront with the players. He said that we are going to give opportunities to make this team look more like South Africa, diverse.

“He reminds us sometimes that we don’t know. When we complain, when we lose motivation, he says, ‘Remember what the people are going through at home. You are the one percent. You are doing what you love. Don’t forget where you come from.’

“He knows me and always tells me, ’Think about that boy, the young Siya that’s out there. Think about him when you want to give up.’ He holds me accountable when I get big-headed. He calls it out. My teammates too.”

This story first appeared on sarugbymag.co.za. It is republished here with permission. For the original story click here.

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