DURBAN, South Africa — It was clear for everybody to see that Siya Kolisi wasn’t quite 100 percent fit in the June series win over England.
He was unable to finish any of the three Tests he played, and he definitely wasn’t as effective in his role of fetcher. That was because Kolisi didn’t have a proper pre-season, while various injuries had also hampered him throughout the year.
But now the Springboks captain is looking really fit, and sharp at training.
It must also be a relief that he has a lot fewer distractions going into the Rugby Championship.
Kolisi was in high demand when he became the first black rugby captain of South Africa. And rightly so; it was an historic selection that had to be celebrated far and wide across South Africa.
But now it’s all about leading the team in the Rugby Championship, and picking up his performance after a productive month at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.
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“It does feel a lot more relaxed and rugby focused now that I’ve had some time in the captaincy role, and I just want to be measured on my effort on the field,” Kolisi said.
“Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a good opportunity to get some ‘pre-season training’ under my belt, and I’m feeling a lot stronger than I did in June or during Super Rugby.”
Kolisi is at his best with ball in hand, as he has not only the power to break tackles but also the pace and skill to beat defenders.
At his best, he can certainly be the player to give the Boks momentum on attack.
“For me, it’s not just about running, passing and doing those flashy things,” Kolisi said about his change to the blindside.
“I want to be chasing kicks, tackling and making sure I’m on my feet at all times.
“What Rassie wants to see from everyone is real effort, so I want to go as hard as I can for as long as I can.”
Kolisi won his first series in charge of the Boks, but he knows tougher tests are coming over the next month.
The Boks haven’t won a Rugby Championship since the start of the revamped southern hemisphere competition in 2012, while they’ve managed to beat the All Blacks only once during that time, but ESPN correspondent and former All Blacks prop Craig Dowd has been “impressed with the South African resurgence this year“.
“We really want to build on what we started in June, and to keep getting better and better as a team,” Kolisi said.
“Rassie has a long-term plan in place for this team, and it’s about hopefully winning and learning along the way.
“It’s really important to win at home, and make a good start to this competition, and so we just want to ensure that we play with plenty of energy and intensity.”