Rags to Rugby: The Story of Siya Kolisi’s Journey From Zwide to the World Cup
- Siya Kolisi was born in the Zwide township in Port Elizabeth, where he first started playing rugby with a brick
- He earned his way to Grey College via a rugby scholarship and succeeded despite not knowing how to speak English when he arrived
- Under his leadership as team captain, the Springboks achieved World Cup victory in 2019 and he got to take the trophy back to his hometown
On 16 June 1991, Siyamthanda “Siya” Kolisi was born in Port Elizabeth. He grew up in the Zwide township and was raised by his uncle, aunt, and grandfather. His family struggled financially, causing Siya to often skip school in order to take care of them.
In spite of his circumstances, Siya found solace in playing rugby. He started playing when he was seven years old and at age 12, he gained recognition for his impressive talent on the field. He was awarded a rugby scholarship to Grey Boy’s High School, one of the most revered rugby programs in the country.
Siya's days at Grey and early rugby career
However, this move was not without its challenges. He was accommodated in the school’s hostel, which meant that he could not see his family very often. Although the greatest challenge he faced in moving schools is that he could only speak Xhosa when he arrived at Grey.
One of his fellow students, Nicholas Holton, reached out to Siya by teaching him English. The two Grey alumni are still close friends, exemplified by the fact that Nicolas was Siya’s best man at his wedding.
In a few short years, Siya worked his way on to the first rugby team at Grey and obtained his Eastern Cape provincial colours in 2007. He debuted in the Craven Week tournament. Siya moved from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape where he joined the Stormers team in 2012.
Siya the Springbok and world champion
He used this opportunity to become respected globally as a loose forward, thereby earning his spot on the 2013 Rugby Championship team for the Springboks. Despite often being relegated to the bench, Siya made the Springboks squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
In 2017 he was named the vice-captain of the Springboks and become the first black captain the following year. Just over a year into his career as captain, he led the Springboks to victory at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. This gave South Africa their third Rugby World Cup win.
This was not only a unifying moment for South Africa, but also a source of hope for township children who see themselves in captain Siya Kolisi. Therefore, it is no surprise that Siya insisted that the Springbok’s victory bus tour include townships so that children living there can see the trophy in person and gain inspiration from it.
Siya spends quality time with his wife and kids
Recently Briefly News reported on Siya Kolisi's family vacation to Phinda Private Game Reserve in KZN. On his Instagram, he shared pictures where he can be seen having the time of his life with his wife, Rachel Kolisi, and their two children, Nicholas and Keziah.
The Kolisis can be seen going on game drives, eating hearty meals, splashing around in a boujee-looking pool and getting front row seats to majestic wildlife such as lions, giraffes and rhinos.
"So excited to spend a few days at @andbeyondphinda with the family before it’s time to head back on tour @andbeyondtravel," Siya expressed in one his posts.