Johann van Graan hails Siya Kolisi’s ‘incredible’ journey

Date published: November 9 2019

Munster head coach Johann van Graan was full of praise for Springboks captain Siya Kolisi after the flanker led his side to Rugby World Cup glory last week.

Kolisi has returned to South Africa as a hero from Japan this week and is fast becoming the face of the Springboks’ celebrations.

Van Graan was part of the Boks’ coaching staff when Kolisi made his Test debut against Scotland in Nelspruit 2013, when he came on as a first half replacement for current Munster back-row Arno Botha, who left the field through injury.

“Siya [Kolisi], to see where he came from, he was a young gun in 2012. He got selected in 2013, I was with him when he ran onto the field, when Arno Botha tore his ACL,” Van Graan told The42.ie.

“I just told him ‘Siya, this is just another game, do what you always do.’”

Six years on and Kolisi has been following that advice which has helped him to victory at this year’s World Cup.

“That’s incredible what he has done. And he is a family man.”

When asked what the Boks’ World Cup success means for his native country, Van Graan became emotional as he considered the impact of their triumph.

“To see the difference it makes in peoples’ lives is incredible,” he said.

“I thought through the World Cup England were the best team due to their performances but once it got to the final, after two minutes, it was clear South Africa would win. You can’t defeat set-piece dominance.

“Their scrums; I think it was on 43 minutes that Beastie [Tendai Mtawarira] and Francie [Malherbe] went off and on came Kitsi [Steven Kitshoff] and Vincent [Koch], two tanks, and that first scrum they dominated England straight away.

“I left with a heavy heart because it was such an incredible group of people.

“I always said when I left South Africa I wanted to leave on a good footing because at some stage I do want to go back. There was a massive opportunity at Munster and I went towards something.

“I have been in contact with most of those lads for the last two years. Like I said to the guys I am currently coaching, I am not in it for fame or ego. You want to make a difference. Hopefully some day when I leave Munster I will have made a massive difference here.

“To me it is more about the people. I have said that from day one.”