It’s been a grand year for Siya Kolisi, and tomorrow the jewel of the Eastern Cape has a chance to sparkle even brighter in his homecoming Test against the Wallabies (5.05pm kickoff).
Tomorrow the people of Zwide will be bursting with pride when their beloved son Siyamthanda Kolisi leads out his country in the famous green and gold jersey at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
There have been many of those special moments between 2013 – when a young Kolisi became the first Springbok from Zwide when he made his Test debut against Scotland – and tomorrow.
Last year, Kolisi became Stormers captain, an achievement that seemed to do wonders for the loose forward’s game. It was the first time he’d ever captained a professional side.
Then there was his appointment as the first black Springbok captain ahead of the three-Test series against England.
Earlier this year, Kolisi added another honour to his achievements when his journey – which ultimately resulted in him leading the Boks against Eddie Jones’ men – was voted the Laureus Sporting Moment for July.
What makes tomorrow such a red-letter day on the Siya calendar is the fact that it will be the first time he plays a Test in Port Elizabeth as captain.
And the fact that this Test comes after the Boks’ famous heart-stopping win over the All Blacks in Wellington should make sure that the atmosphere in the Friendly City is even better.
Kolisi’s story in itself is an inspiring one, from being raised in tough circumstances by his grandmother in Zwide, to making it big, returning to the Eastern Cape and adopting his two young siblings and giving back – like when he donated kits to his old club last year.
Besides his athletic ability, Kolisi – as a person – appears to be the kind of leader the Boks (or any other team) needs.
He is quiet but strong, and plays with a passion that just cries out “follow me men”.
Notshe takes over from the injured @WarrenWhiteley at No 8, while Kolbe will start at right wing in place of @JesseKriel15, who moves to the midfield with Andre Esterhuizen in the wake of injuries to De Allende and Am. @Beast_TM and @StevenKitshoff rotate at No 1. #LoveRugby pic.twitter.com/d19oT9tUaT
The Eastern Cape has always been the cradle of black rugby, and it has been very sad to see, for instance, all the turbulence and distress around the Kings (although at least they were recently boosted by positive sponsorship news).
That is another reason why tomorrow’s game is so important, not just for Siya, but for the region itself. All the tickets for the Test have been sold out, which just shows the thirst that people in the Eastern Cape still have for rugby.
Just imagine how amazing a victory over the Australians would be, not only because it would be a big boost following the loss in Brisbane, but also because it would be in PE – a city where the All Blacks have historically enjoyed a big following.
And a win over the Kiwis and the Wallabies for Kolisi and his team in one season, with one of those coming in front of his home crowd … how big would that be!