South Africa captain Siya Kolisi on Friday hailed coach Rassie Erasmus for having restored self-belief in the Springbok camp after a couple of disappointing seasons for one of rugby’s traditional powerhouses.
Kolisi was appointed skipper by Erasmus, himself named as head coach in March 2018, after a run of poor results for the two-time world champions.
It was no small move, with Kolisi becoming the first black Test captain of the Springboks, who occupy an important place in both the sporting and social fabric of South Africa given rugby union’s links to the old apartheid regime and its continued importance to the minority white, Afrikaner community.
In his first campaign as Test captain, flanker Kolisi guided the Boks to a 2-1 home series win over England in June. But that was arguably surpassed by a stunning 36-34 Rugby Championship triumph against the All Blacks in Wellington in September.
On the road, this November, a one-point loss to England was followed by an injury-time 29-26 victory over France and a 26-20 win in Scotland.
“The way we do things is different, how hard we work for each other,” Kolisi insisted ahead of their season-ending Test against Wales at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday.
“We have a different coaching staff, they’ve changed quite a lot of things. We work a lot harder than we did and we believe a lot more than we did.”
Kolisi added: “We’re definitely happy about where we are but we know there’s a lot more to be done.
“He’s (Erasmus) definitely made us realise what’s important: it’s being a Springbok, rather than you as an individual.
“Everything you do, you do for the Springboks. Everything we do it’s always we can see what we’re working towards.
“We see what his plans are and understand them,” Kolisi said of Erasmus, who was capped 36 times for South Africa as a player.
– Eye on World Cup –
Kolisi stressed that there was no difficulty in motivating the team for the game against the Welsh.
“Not at all,” the 27-year-old said. “We are pretty excited. We won’t be able to see each other for a while (after this).
“It is also our fifth game before the World Cup so for a lot of guys we want to make sure the coaches have a good memory of us from the last game we played.
“This is the one game they will remember for the rest of the year until we play again – it is a long period, so the guys are keen to do well.”
Kolisi controversially escaped a ban after TV footage appeared to show him butting Scotland’s Peter Horne last weekend.
A statement from global governing body World Rugby said Kolisi had received a warning from citing commissioner David Pelton for striking with the head during the match at Murrayfield but that the offence did not merit a red card.
The Bok skipper said he had been “chilled”.
“It wasn’t in my hands. I always respect what World Rugby says. I waited and when they told me (I wasn’t banned) I was obviously very happy for the guys.
“I would never do something on purpose to hurt someone else. If I had done something stupid like that I would have been taken off the field. I was really happy. My record shows I was clean and I have never done anything.”
lp/bsp/pb (Additional editing by Sean McMahon)
© Agence France-Presse