Siya Kolisi: Sharks move helped me rediscover my best form

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Springboks captain Siya Kolisi believes his move to the Sharks and the work that came with it was central to rediscovering his form that earned him the title of SA Rugby Player of the Year in 2021.

The increasingly popular captain was announced as SA’s best after edging out Bok team-mates Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth and Makazole Mapimpi for the prestigious award.

Humble leader

In typical Kolisi fashion, he spoke of the collective over himself as the main priority.

“Anything we achieve as a team is always No 1. For the year we had last year, as a team we had so many that stood up in a very difficult year. I am really honoured. It could have gone to anyone in the team,” he told SA Rugby Magazine.

“Individual achievements are not something we focus on as a team. That’s not our motto. These things do happen, so I am really honoured and grateful. Without my teammates and coaching staff, I wouldn’t have achieved this.”

The 30-year-old was the only player to feature in all 13 Springbok Tests in 2021 leading his side to a British and Irish Lions series win as the highlight of the year.

However, it was the move up the coast to the Sharks that pulled Kolisi from his comfort zone and forced him to rediscover his work ethic.

“The change was very scary because I was at the Stormers for 11 years. Whenever you go to a new place, you have to prove yourself,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t close to where I was supposed to be. I was even scared of not making the Springbok team.

“I didn’t think I was fit enough. Then I had that eight-week pre-season. Coming back and playing again, it took a while and I got back to the Springbok camp as well. The standards and the goals that coach Jacques and coach Rassie set and obviously the conditioning with Andy did well when I got there. But I had a good base, so it did help me a lot. The heat also helps a lot.

“When I came to Durban, it really did help me because I went for eight weeks playing no rugby at all. I was just training and that helped me so much.”

The 2021 season was a tricky one for the Springboks, hopping from bio-bubble to bio-bubble a new reality as a professional rugby player in a global pandemic. Kolisi was quick to commend his team on how well they handled the new normal.

“I took a lot of positives. Last year, with all the challenges we had as a group and the way our coaching staff, management and everybody just adapted,” he added. “The biggest thing I took out of it was the way we didn’t complain, we just got on with it. Even though we had stumbles along the way, before we played the British & Irish Lions, the first time we trained together was on the Monday of the first Test. We were able to pull through that.

“We all made a collective decision to sacrifice not being with our families. That’s the kind of spirit that the team had. That was huge for us.”

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