Kolisi rise to skipper sets Boks landmark

Reuters
Siya Kolisi's appointment as captain of the Springboks for the three-test home series against England may not be a permanent choice...
Reuters

Siya Kolisi’s appointment as captain of the Springboks for the three-test home series against England may not be a permanent choice but his elevation signals a landmark moment for a sport still haunted by past links to apartheid.

Stormers flanker Kolisi was named to lead the Boks against England in June with previous skippers, loose-forward Warren Whiteley and lock Eben Etzebeth, both ruled out through injury.

He will become the first black test captain of the team after hooker Chilliboy Ralepelle, who was just 20 at the time, led a Springbok XV against a World XV in 2006.

Overlooked last year when then coach Allister Coetzee preferred Etzebeth despite Kolisi being the lock’s captain at the Stormers, yesterday’s move has significance beyond the field as South African rugby seeks to attract more black players.

Current Boks coach Rassie Erasmus says the decision was based purely on his history with Kolisi, 26, but is also aware that it will be a popular appointment with a majority of South Africans.

“I got Siya from the Eastern Cape to come play in the Western Cape. I’ve known him for a long time,” Erasmus told reporters yesterday. “I don’t want to look at this from a political or historical perspective.”

Kolisi’s appointment will do no harm as rugby continues to break the shackles of its past image.

More black players are now commonplace in top-level teams and while his selection is landmark, it is also a natural progression of transformation efforts in the sport, where up until 1981 black players were barred from representing the Boks.

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