Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Revealed: The wedding day speech that put Kolisi on path to Bok captaincy

After former Stormers coach Robbie Fleck heard Kolisi’s speech at his wedding, it set him on his way to making Springbok history.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi will make history on Sunday when he becomes just the second player to lead South Africa 50 times when he takes to the field in their Rugby World Cup pool match against Tonga at the Stade de Marseille.

Only former hooker John Smit has captained the Boks more times, with his 83 matches at the helm a stiff target for the 32-year-old Kolisi, who made history as the first ever black South African captain in 2018, to chase over the rest of his career.

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Jean de Villiers (37), Gary Teichmann (36) and Francois Pienaar (29) round out the top five of the most capped Bok captains.

Kolisi’s road to the Bok captaincy was a strange one, with him originally not seen as captaincy material due to the type of person he was.

Wedding speech

However, after former Stormers coach Robbie Fleck heard Kolisi’s speech at his wedding, it set him on his way to making Springbok history.

“I’ve always been the joker in the team, the naughty one. Coach Fleckie came to my wedding and he heard me speak. After the wedding he said, ‘I think you should lead the team’,” explained Kolisi.

“He gave me the captaincy after that but it took a while (to settle in). I would always be the joker, the last one at the party, the drunkest one in the room, and now I must be something different. It took a while but I just try to be myself in everything I do.

“Here at the Springboks, that was tough. It was really difficult at the beginning because I don’t think there’s any greater honour, other than playing for the Springboks, to captain a team like this with its history and everything. Being the first black captain, it was difficult.”

Milestone moment

Kolisi readily admitted that reaching the milestone of 50 games as captain of the Boks was only possible due to the players and coaching staff that rallied around him since he made his captaincy bow against England back in June 2018.

“Being captain of the Springboks is a big thing already, but for so many people it meant so much more and I didn’t understand the weight of it,” said Kolisi.

“I was fortunate to have the players we have in the group. Duane (Vermeulen), Eben (Etzebeth) and Pieter-Steph (du Toit) who have all captained the team, as well as Handre Pollard. I honestly wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have the guys that we have and also the coaching staff. 

“Coach Rassie (Erasmus) understood. He knows me. He’s known me since I was 17 years old, Jacques (Nienaber) since I was 18. They know what kind of person I am and they built things around me.

“My role hasn’t changed since that first game that I played. It’s simple, I just have to play well and talk to the ref. Honestly, without the team that we have, the players and the management, I don’t think I would have lasted.”

Dreams are made of

Talking about captaining the side for a 50th time against Tonga, Kolisi claimed it is something he could never have even dreamed about growing up back in Zwide (township in Gqeberha).

“It’s honestly something I never dreamed of, that I never thought would happen. Where I come from, I didn’t have dreams like that,” admitted Kolisi.

“I played rugby because I enjoyed it, I played it because it kept me out of trouble and I played it because most of my friends played it. I definitely didn’t think I would be sitting here now.”