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Kolisi: World Cup win can inspire a new generation of South Africans

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Final - New Zealand v South Africa - Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France - October 28, 2023 South Africa's Siya Kolisi lifts The Webb Ellis Cup as they celebrate winning the world cup final REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
South Africa's Siya Kolisi lifts The Webb Ellis Cup as they celebrate winning the World Cup Final (Reuters) (Stephanie Lecocq / reuters)

Siya Kolisi’s place in rugby history was secured long before he led South Africa to a second successive Rugby World Cup title, writes Paul Eddison.

But the South Africa captain cemented his legend even further by captaining the Springboks to a 12-11 win over New Zealand as they lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for the fourth time.

They won on their first appearance in this tournament – Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela providing the most iconic photo in rugby history when they lifted the trophy together in 1995.

That was a landmark moment for South African rugby, and Kolisi’s appointment as the first black Springbok captain was just as meaningful.

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In four years, he has gone from an inspiration to an icon, the most incredible spokesperson for the Springboks, for rugby and for South Africa.

In the aftermath of a titanic battle with New Zealand, Kolisi said he had no words for what the team had just achieved, before summing it up with remarkable eloquence.

He said: "I can't explain this in words. At the last World Cup, we were just hoping. Our aim was to get the Springboks back to the top, but this time the expectations were high.

"There is so much going wrong in our country, we are the last line of defence. There are so many people who come from where I come from that are hopeless.

"But the people have been behind us from the beginning and what we do, we show people from different backgrounds can come together as South African, not just on the field but in life as well.

"Without 1995 I wouldn't be here, there were people before me who fought for people who look like me to be here as part of this team. We can't take that away, I have a job to inspire the next generation to see they can have opportunities like this."

South Africa were pushed to the limit once again. This was their third successive one-point victory, France, England and now New Zealand all just pipped to the post.

They did it this time despite losing Bongi Mbonambi to injury after just two minutes, leaving makeshift hooker Deon Fourie to step up for 78 minutes.

Of course, New Zealand dealt with their own adversity, skipper Sam Cane becoming the first man sent off in a men’s Rugby World Cup final as they played more than an hour with 14 men.

And Kolisi paid tribute to the vanquished opponents, who came so close.

He added: "There are no ways I can explain it. I want to give credit to the All Blacks. They took us to the end, they took us to a dark place.

"It shows what kind of team they are, to fight with a man down from early in the game. They put us under so much pressure.

"Credit to my boys too for the fight. I am just grateful we could pull it off.

"We lost our hooker in the early part of the game and we had to adjust to that. They put a lot of pressure on our lineouts but somehow we found a way.

"People who are not from South Africa don't understand what it means for our country. It is not just about the game.

"Our country goes through such a lot. We are just grateful that we can be here. I want to tell the people of South Africa 'thank you so much'.

"This team just shows what you can do. As soon as we work together, all is possible, no matter in what sphere.

"In the field or in offices, it shows what we can do. I am grateful for this team, I am so proud of it."