Siya Kolisi was simply outstanding in the Springboks’ 100th Test against the All Blacks, and while the South African public mourns the most painful of losses, there must also be such celebration of their captain’s qualities, writes Oliver Keohane.
100 years of rugby rivalry between the All Blacks and Springboks was celebrated so fittingly, as they battled it out in contrasting styles for 80 minutes. The cruel irony is that one kick converted, and one missed was what saw the Springboks on the wrong side of the two point differential that determined the game. The cruel reality is that Siya Kolisi’s performance was one of his best in a Springbok jersey, and it was a showing that so deserved a 17-16 win and not a 19-17 loss.
While a win for Kolisi was not be the case, the result must in no way undercut his phenomenal presence on the night. From a pure rugby perspective, Kolisi put in the complete flanker performance. He was everywhere on defence, drove through the gain line in every carry and consistently controlled the breakdown and the Springboks’ defensive alignment.
Leading from the front 💪
Siya Kolisi was outstanding today 🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/m4Uyjli6cZ
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) September 25, 2021
Kolisi was relentless, and he remained so for 80 minutes. The Bok captain has often come under (misguided) criticism for not finishing full games – a critique to which he answered after the Springboks’ series win over the British & Irish Lions that he does not take himself off, the coaches do when they feel that he has given everything he can in the match. Kolisi’s first 60 minutes today demanded that he remain on the field for the last 20, and he did. The Springboks needed Kolisi the aggressive and abrasive flanker, and they needed Kolisi the leader. They got both, and they got him until the final, crushing whistle went.
On a night where Jordie Barrett’s boot was the cause of Springbok heartbreak, Siya Kolisi was still the best player on the pitch. His performance, in vain, was reminiscent of French flanker Thierry Dusatoir receiving Man of the Match when captaining France in their World Cup final loss to New Zealand in 2011. For all of Dusatoir’s heroics, France just could not win. The same was the case tonight, where nobody can reflect on Kolisi’s outing and ask any more of him. He was simply outstanding, and it simply wasn’t enough .
Kolisi has also been outstanding the entire year, and he is not given enough credit for his consistent contributions every game. He is a man that leads in how he plays, but beyond being captain he is just a bloody good flank and rugby player.
Amidst the pain that many South Africans will be feeling, I hope that there is the ability to put the result into perspective in that one kick was the difference between heroics and hurt for Siya and his men. I hope that there is also an acknowledgment of how important Siya Kolisi is to the Springbok cause. Not just because he is the captain, but because every week he is one of the most impactful players on the pitch.
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