Eben Etzebeth’s sizeable frame came in very handy for Siya Kolisi when he celebrated a Liverpool goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool supporter Kolisi was in England with the Springboks for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, who had just claimed the tournament’s bronze medal after defeating Argentina, following a loss to New Zealand in the semi-final.
A number of Kolisi’s Springboks team mates had tickets for the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia, but himself and Eben Etzebeth decided to go a Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea instead.
The now Springboks captain almost got in trouble while at Stamford Bridge however, as Kolisi explains in his autobiography ‘Rise’.
Siya Kolisi on the warm reception he received from Chelsea fans.
“A few of the boys went to Twickenham to watch the final between Australia and New Zealand, but Eben and I had tickets to watch Liverpool play Chelsea,” Kolisi wrote.
“I’d been a Liverpool fan since I was a kid. This was the first time I’d ever seen them play, and I couldn’t wait. The only snag was that the seats we had were among the Chelsea fans, and we knew enough to be aware that soccer crowds in England weren’t like rugby crowds.
“In rugby stadiums, opposing fans mingle happily and there’s never any hint of trouble. English football was different. Whatever you do, we were told, don’t celebrate if Liverpool score.
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— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) December 30, 2021
“You don’t have to leap around and feign delight if Chelsea do, but don’t celebrate a goal against the home team. The fans don’t mind neutrals, but they do mind opponents. Chelsea went 1-0 up early on, but just before half time Philippe Coutinho equalised for Liverpool.
“Instinctively I leapt up and started screaming, just like I did every time they scored when I was watching on TV at home in Cape Town. Hundreds of heads whipped round to glare at me: Chelsea fans. Angry. Furious. Hurling abuse at me.
“Eben stood up alongside me, all 2.03m of him, and folded his arms so his biceps looked even bigger than they are normally. The abuse faded away into mutterings as the fans gradually sat down again.
“We followed suit and Eben leant over to me. ‘You do that again and I’ll klap you myself.'”
Philippe Coutinho inspired Liverpool to a 3-1 victory.
Although Kolisi may not have verbally expressed his joy at Stamford Bridge after Coutinho’s first goal, he would have been quietly very happy with the result, as Coutinho scored twice to lead Liverpool to a 3-1 win away from home.
Over in Twickenham, New Zealand proved to be too good for Australia, as they claimed a 34-17 win against their neighbours to become the first country to win back-to-back Rugby World Cups.
Kolisi was on the fringes of the Springboks’ squad at the time, having made just two appearances off the bench at the tournament, but he would captain his country to World Cup glory four years later.
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