Ink Tone Swep Images Craig Kolesky Location Cape Town, South Africa
Professional sports is an interesting animal. Elite athletes compete in gladiator combat to acquire trophies commemorating their conquests. Rugby star Siya Kolisi, known as The Bear, is a leader on his team, champion in his sport, and a king in his country. The first black man ever appointed captain of the Springboks – South Africa’s National Rugby team – Kolisi led his squad to victory in the 2019 World Cup.
A Red Bull athlete, Kolisi led the South African rugby union national team to a historic victory over England in Yokohama, Japan on Saturday November 2, 2019. The occasion also marked the 28-year-old’s 50th Test match. Undoubtedly a day to remember for the man who rose to the top of his sport from very humble beginnings.
Former captain Francois Pienaar hoisted the sport’s biggest trophy at Ellis Park in 1995 with then-president Nelson Mandela alongside him, while John Smit did the same in 2007 at the Stade de France in Paris. Twelve years later proved Kolisi’s turn to walk that path – the first black man to captain the national team in its 127-year history.
Kolisi remembers the 2007 event and what it did for the country back then. He watched the final at a tavern because he didn’t have a television at home. Fast forward to today, Kolisi’s father travelled to Japan to watch his son play in the final this time – his first ever trip abroad.
Kolisi made his debut for the senior Springbok side in June 2013, at only 21. He came on as a fifth-minute replacement for Arno Botha against Scotland and put in a man-of-the-match performance. The loose forward is known for his blend of speed, power, and being comfortable on both sides of the scrum.
In 2017, he became the captain of the Stormers – a Super Rugby franchise. The following year, Kolisi was named the captain of the national team, making history as the first black Test rugby captain ever in South African rugby. Off the field, Kolisi is passionate about using his platform as a professional athlete for positive change.