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Rugby World Cup 2023: Siya Kolisi, the township child who became as famous as the Beatles in South Africa

When the television cameras zoom in on his face, Sunday October 15, just before the French and South African teams enter the pitch at the Stade de France, Siya Kolisi will be singing. That’s how the Springbok captain concentrates. His teammates, whom he will lead into battle that evening against the French XV for qualification for the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup, know this ritual well. “In my culture, we love to sing, explain to World the 32-year-old international. And for me, it allows me to escape from the external clamor to only think about the task at hand: winning. » Message received even if we suspected it a little. On Sunday, South Africa will give everything to continue dreaming of the unprecedented feat of becoming world champion a fourth time after their titles in 1995, 2007 and 2019.

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Physically, Siya Kolisi, 105 kilos and 1.88 meters tall, is not the strongest in his group, rather built like a menhir. However, the player imposes it. Despite this corpulence, considered average in the world of Ovals, he has the gait of a giant and his inscrutable gaze is reminiscent of a boxer ready to enter the ring. His opponents fear his tackles and know that it is almost impossible to get the ball out of his hands when he launches a counter-attack. But it’s not just his third-row qualities that are frightening, number 6 is also an incredible leader of men.

In May 2018, he became the first black captain in the history of the Springboks. It’s a sporting wall that then collapses. In the former segregationist nation, it was not until 1995 that a player of color, Chester Williams, joined the national team. If, in 2018, the coach at the time, Rassie Erasmus, decided to take a new step, it is because he saw in Siya Kolisi a real war leader. The future proves him right. In 2019, South Africa lifted the Webb Ellis Cup again, twelve years after their last victory.

“He’s a special guy”

Even if he still remains very active within the staff, Rassie Erasmus has today given way to Jacques Nienaber, also convinced of the indisputable leadership of Siya Kolisi. Journalists often question the South African captain about his sense of teamwork so praised by the coaching duo. “In a sport like rugby, you must not have an egohe replied on September 10, after the victory against Scotland (18-3) in a group match. If I took the melon, the players would tell me, because, in the team, we think about “us” before “me”. »

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