Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Kolisi reveals fight to be fit to lead Boks at World Cup: ‘I was really scared’

The Bok captain has also sympathised with the trio of players who will miss this year's tournament due to injury and illness.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi had to dig deep to come back from the biggest challenge of his career to lead the team at this year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

Kolisi suffered a serious knee injury in the United Rugby Championship that required surgery back in April, which seriously threatened to derail his chances of leading the Boks at a second World Cup and attempting to retain the title they won in Japan in 2019.

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However, after putting in a massive amount of work with the Bok medical team over the past few months Kolisi’s recovery has been ahead of schedule and he is now available for selection for the team’s final two warm-up games before the World Cup.

Scariest injury

After the Boks’ World Cup squad was announced on Tuesday afternoon, Kolisi admitted that this was the scariest injury he had suffered in his career to date.

“I was scared for this one (injury). But the surgeon and the medical team at the Springboks gave me confidence that I would be okay,” said Kolisi.

“I was also blessed with how quickly I healed, which was big. The harder I worked the better I felt and that was important. So obviously I was really scared. If it wasn’t for my wife, my family and the support around me I wouldn’t be here.

“Also the guys that went through what I have been going through really helped me. Guys like RG (Snyman) and Handre (Pollard) helped me quite a lot. Because every time I felt something weird, I’d go to them and they’d tell me where they were at the same stage and that gave me a lot of confidence.

“Now I feel really good. I have worked hard and all I need now is to keep training hard with the boys. But this kind of thing reminds you how quickly it can all be taken away, and that is the tough part.”

Disappointed trio

Although there was joy for Kolisi, there was disappointment for a trio of 2019 World Cup winners as Pollard (callf), Lukhanyo Am (knee) and Lood de Jager (chest) were left out of the squad due to their injuries and illness.

Kolisi sympathised with the experienced trio, but retained hope that they could still be involved in the tournament if anyone else in the main squad was to be injured before the end of the World Cup.

“It’s very sad, those are players who have done a lot for us and are players we need. They’ve won a lot of matches for us and they have experience. I don’t have the words to sum up their contributions to the team,” said Kolisi.

“It has been tough to even talk to them. With Lukhanyo we found out (on Monday) that he wasn’t going to make it. I spoke to him and he wasn’t feeling very positive, you never know what to say.

“But with their injury timelines there is hope that they might still come back into the team if anybody is injured.”