Siya not kidding himself this is just another game
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi refused to take the same route as some of the England players when he appeared at the pre-match press briefing to Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final.
While some of the England players, in an attempt to play down the pressure of the clash at Yokohama International Stadium, spoke of it as just another game, Kolisi took a different line.
“The emotion can definitely help you lift your performance, it just how you channel that emotion that is important,” said the Bok skipper.
“This is not just another game. We know it is much bigger than that. Not many people get this opportunity. This is a World Cup final.”
It just so happens that the final, the game that marks the culmination of the last four years build-up to the World Cup, also coincides with Kolisi’s landmark 50th game in the Bok jersey. Predictably, he said he wasn’t thinking too much about that.
“I have really thought about my 50th test to be honest, my focus has been purely on doing my part. This is a special day for every single player in the team. To have reached 50 is a big achievement, not a lot of Springboks get to play 50 tests. I am proud of that. But the most important thing is to do my part for the team and then everything else will fall into place.”
EVEN MORE ADULATION?!
If it does fall into place, the Boks will be World Cup champions and Kolisi will be even more of a national hero than he is. He seems more ready for the adulation than he was in 2018, when coach Rassie Erasmus first appointed him as captain. Erasmus said earlier in the week that he wasn’t aware of the fuss that would be created by him making Kolisi captain, and the skipper himself conceded on the eve of the most important match of his career that he hadn’t been prepared for it either.
“That period was very tough, when my appointment to the captaincy was first announced,” recalled Kolisi.
“It was such a big thing at home and around the world and it took its toll on me. My performance dipped quite a lot. When I played in that first series against England I wasn’t at my best and I had to work hard on myself. Our conditioning coach Aled (Thomas) also worked hard on all of us.
“Rassie made it easier for me. He told me to just focus on my play. We shared the leadership load with Handre Pollard, Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth, who had led the side before, and a few other guys.
“I am very pleased with how it has gone and really proud of what we have done as a team. It will be a huge thing if we can win this game for our country. We know that we represent South Africans from all different walks of life and a win will help bring the people together. We all brought into coach Rassie’s plans, we decided this is what we want to achieve, and we have worked to be where we are now.”
Kolisi’s father has been flown out to be with his son on this big occasion.
“I am really happy that I was able to do that for him. It is his first time he has flown overseas,” said Kolisi. “He came out with my best friend. It is really great to be able to do something for a family member.”
But otherwise, although acknowledging the hugeness of the occasion, Kolisi said that the Boks have kept the build-up week as close as possible to a normal routine build-up week.
“It’s just been the usual preparation for the game this week, nothing extra,” he said, possibly forgetting that there is a meeting with the President of the country scheduled for sometime in the next 24 hours.
“In the past four games we have played against England it has been an arm wrestle, the games have been about swings of momentum, like what happened in the very first game we played against them (under Erasmus’ coaching) in Johannesburg last year. It will be a similar kind of game and it will be all about who can best handle those momentum swings.
“We are ready to expect anything that is thrown at us. We have definitely prepared really well for this game.”
A key weapon in the Bok quest to swing the momentum their way across the course of the 80 minutes will be the so-called Bomb Squad, the eight reserves, which are made up of an unconventional split of six forwards and two backs.
“The Bomb Squad was only named that last year but it has been very important for us for a long time. The guys on the bench, and the NPS (non playing support), those guys not playing, have been huge for us. The success of this team is not just down to the 23 that are playing in the game.
“This has been a very tightly knit squad and we have been together now for 20 weeks. We are coming to the end now and we are feeling quite sad about having to separate after this and go our separate ways. Everyone is important in the team and everyone has a role to play.”