Siya Kolisi is my player of the year in 2021, writes Mark Keohane. He has been everything you want in a Test player and a leader.
Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth has been magnificent, the Bok front rowers have been consistently world class and, as a combination, Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, have been the most consistent and impressive midfield in the game.
Both midfielders could also claim to currently be the best in their respective positions.
Kolisi, though, has just been immense.
He started every one of the 13 Springbok Test matches and on returning to South Africa last week was immediately into the action for the Sharks in the United Rugby Championship in their 30-16 win against the Bulls.
Kolisi, by his own admission, had struggled for form in the Currie Cup, but by the time the international season started, the quality of his play and his conditioning was transformed. He emptied the tank in every match, never took a step backwards and was always prepared to put in the hard graft.
When he did get those opportunities with ball in hand, he made it count and he produced some telling individual runs. His tackle count was huge and his cleanouts were memorable.
Throughout the international season, we’ve not been shy to laud Kolisi’s performances on this platform, and we won’t be shy now.
Kolisi, for me, should have been the official World Player of the Year and his omission as one of the five nominated players was bizarre.
He played superbly and he led with intelligence and calm. He got stronger with each Test match as a leader and his play was of a consistently high standard.
It is the best I have ever seen Siya play internationally in one season. The Springboks started the year ranked No 1 in the world and finished it ranked number one. They won eight from 13 but four of the defeats came in the final two minutes of Tests.
Kolisi was influential in every Test he played and the threads below are an illustration of his impact for the Springboks in 2021.