Siya Kolisi: ‘It’s a privilege not a burden to fight for the people back home’


It’s been a sleep-sapping few days for South Africa’s World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi.

The Springbok skipper admits the aftermath of Saturday’s 32-12 victory over England in Yokohama has been frantic, but he knows he has to summon energy as the team returns home.

Fans took to streets across South Africa as Kolisi, the Springboks’ first black captain, led his side to its third World Cup triumph.

The South African squad will begin a victory tour Thursday, taking the trophy to a number of cities, including Kolisi’s native Port Elizabeth, before ending in Cape Town on November 11.

“All of us as a team have invested emotionally, the past 20 weeks or the past couple of years,” Kolisi told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane.

“After the game we were so excited and happy and we were chilling as a team and just thinking about it and I was like, ‘I’m actually really tired now but I know I need to get some energy because there’s a lot of people waiting for us back home.’”

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Fans in Pretoria react to a South African try in the Rugby World Cup final.

‘Change in mindset’

The victory provides a timely lift for a country wrestling with economic turmoil.

A report from the World Bank in 2018 revealed that South Africa is the most financially unequal country in the world. The white minority population enjoys a command of wealth, while the majority black and mixed-race population suffers from economic hardship, according to research from the South African Human Rights Commission.

The Springboks’ first World Cup title in 1995 is credited with helping to unite South Africa a year after the fall of apartheid, and there are hopes that victory in Japan will also lift the nation’s mood.

“We know it’s a privilege not a burden to be fighting for the people back home,” says Kolisi. “We’ve taken it and we’re used it.

“We use everything we can to motivate us to play. We hope that we’ve made the people of South Africa proud and we hope this will bring a change in mindset in the way we’ve carried ourselves – to every single person, not just leadership but all South Africans in general.”

READ: Why South Africa’s Rugby World Cup victory means so much

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‘In it together’

Saturday’s victory means that South Africa has never lost a Rugby World Cup final, as well as becoming the first side to lift the Webb Ellis Cup having lost a group stage game – its tournament opener against New Zealand.

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While the Springboks didn’t always play an attractive brand of rugby, their physical dominance and tactical astuteness proved highly effective in the later stages of the World Cup.

“I think the biggest joy I got was seeing the faces of my teammates,” said Kolisi, who has seen his side steadily rise through the world rankings since taking up the captaincy in 2018.

“I know exactly what they’re going through and what they’re feeling because we’ve been in it together.

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“People started believing in us and started to come and support us and I think that drove us quite a lot. The videos we’ve seen from back home, they’re shutting streets down and everything because people are celebrating.”


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