Springboks captain Siya Kolisi details sobering stabbing incident from ‘violent’ teen years

Colin Newboult
Siya Kolisi SA v England RWC 2023 - Alamy.jpg

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi in action against England in Paris.

South Africa’s incredible captain Siya Kolisi has delved into his rags to riches story, recalling how he overcame a violent childhood to become one of the best players in the world.

The 32-year-old has often talked about his difficult upbringing, and he discussed a couple more incidents in an interview with former Wales fly-half Dan Biggar in the Daily Mail.

Kolisi led South Africa to the Rugby World Cup title in 2019 before they retained the Webb Ellis Cup with a win over New Zealand in late October.

Tear gas and stabbings

It is a far cry from his teenage years where the Racing 92 flanker often found himself in trouble.

“I was a bartender when I was 16, illegally. Sometimes people would throw tear gas in but I couldn’t run away because I had to stand at the till and close my eyes,” he told the Mail.

“There were people being stabbed at the door but people carry on partying. I had a violent childhood. I got into a fight and he stabbed me as I was walking away, so I went back and we fought some more.”

The authority Kolisi brings to his role as Springboks skipper, as well as the presence he has when he speaks or even simply enters the room, has seen him tipped for a position in politics after he retires from playing.

That is not on the radar for the 32-year-old, though. The Springboks great is still looking to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds but it will be away from the political sphere.

“Politics? Nah. You don’t want to see me there. I’m going to dedicate myself to my foundation. I went to New York last week and did some fundraising for it,” he said.

“South Africa is number one in the world in gender-based violence. My aunt and my mum were the first people I knew that were being abused.

“In my community you see it so many times that it becomes normal. That’s not good, being immune to things like that. If a man and a woman argued then it would end up in a fight, because men don’t really speak.

“I learnt to speak by going through therapy. I had to go to marriage counselling because I couldn’t give everything to my wife, because my heart was so hard and I didn’t know how to speak.

“In my late 20s, I started talking to someone and the first time I went she said: ‘You are damaged in every level. The stuff that you saw is not normal’.

“It’s extreme, it’s bad. You have to speak about it, get through it. That’s why you grow up and your heart is so hard. Something happens in the community, you fight with someone, forgive them, and you move on. That’s normal in my neighbourhood.”

Historic achievement

Kolisi became the first black captain of the Springboks in 2018 and a year later led the team to their third World Cup title.

It was a significant moment, not just for sport in South Africa but the country as a whole. They then repeated that triumph in October, and the back-row revealed how this achievement arguably eclipsed that of four years ago.

“It’s been wild. The trophy parade in 2019 was big but this was 20 times bigger,” he said.

“A lot of people have been in a dark place but you could see their joy when we travelled around South Africa. It’s like they had been waiting for something to lift them.

“Some people couldn’t afford to watch us at home during the World Cup because you have to pay for the TV. People started opening up malls at 10pm to watch us play. Different backgrounds, different races, all sitting together.

“When we went home I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In Cape Town, the bus couldn’t move. You’d look up and you couldn’t see land, you just see people. Then you turn a corner and there are even more people. It was special.”

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