Siya Kolisi’s European transition ‘not easy’ as ex-England boss reveals heart-to-heart with Springboks skipper

Colin Newboult
Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi alongside Racing 92 head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi alongside Racing 92 head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi has taken time to adapt to life in French rugby, according to his Racing 92 head coach Stuart Lancaster.

The two-time Rugby World Cup-winning captain joined the Parisians following South Africa’s triumph in France, signing a three-year deal at the club.

Kolisi has endured a mixed time of it since moving to Racing, with injuries hampering his stint in the capital so far.

Frustrating return

The Boks flanker returned to action for their Champions Cup quarter-final clash against Toulouse but only lasted 20 minutes before being forced off.

Those on-field issues have possibly compounded the problems away from the pitch, with Lancaster suggesting that Kolisi has found it tough over the past few months.

“I was speaking to Siya Kolisi only the other day – he has not found it easy. It’s a lot easier for him in South Africa where everyone loves and adores him and he is with his mates who he has grown up with and he misses them,” The former Leinster coach said on the Leaders on Leaders podcast.

“I said to him, ‘Well, I miss Dublin, I miss Leinster, I miss the players, I miss the coaches, miss the people but I needed to do this to challenge myself and to work out where my own strengths and weaknesses are’.”

Bokrometer: 11 hopefuls who pressed for Springbok call ups, including a rampaging rookie lock

Kolisi has been looking to bring his leadership qualities to Racing and turn the Parisians from contenders to out-and-out winners.

Despite regularly challenging for the top honours, they have rarely taken that silverware home having often stumbled in the latter stages.

The Boks legend was signed in an attempt to rectify that issue, while they have also brought in England’s former skipper Owen Farrell.

Lancaster worked with Farrell at the Red Rose and in fact gave him his international debut as a 20-year-old in 2012.

“Anyone who watches Saracens, the last two years in particular, will see how good rugby he has played and how much of a factor he is within that,” the 54-year-old said.

“You speak to any of the players who have played with him on Lions tours or England players, not one person has a bad word to say about him in terms of what he delivers.

“His understanding of the game is excellent, his quality as a player is obviously excellent. And his leadership credentials are excellent also, but this is going to be very similar to my challenge coming in. Hopefully I’ll help him with that.”

Premiership Team of the Week: Nick Easter rewards West Country form as ‘close call’ made at fly-half

Exerting his influence

Farrell is highly regarded as a leader but it is not necessarily easy to come straight into an environment and immediately stamp your mark, as Lancaster explained.

“How does he get his message across? How long does he take? Will he take six weeks before he starts holding people to account? Will he find his feet straight away and lead straight away? These are all topics of conversation I am really looking forward to having with him,” he said.

“We have spoken quite a few times. He has got his Saracens head on very much at the moment but very, very soon he will be leaving Saracens and he will be coming over here July 1 with pre-season looming.

“So with him, with Siya Kolisi, with Gael Fickou, who does a lot of the leadership within the French team, what an amazing coaching challenge to try and harness those three players into a strong leadership group.

“(They will be) supported by your Henry Chavancys, your Cameron Wokis and the other guy, the Nolann le Garrecs, who will be future leaders of the team. He will bring a huge amount but it’s not going to be easy, as I found.”

READ MORE: Record-breaking wing praised but Saracens boss not happy with ‘really poor decisions’ against Gloucester