Springboks captain Siya Kolisi explains why ‘everybody buys into’ Rassie Erasmus’ plans

Jared Wright
South Africa's Siya Kolisi celebrates following victory over New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup 2023 final at the Stade de France in Paris, France.

South Africa's Siya Kolisi celebrates following victory over New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup 2023 final at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Picture date: Saturday October 28, 2023.

Two-time Rugby World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi has provided insight into the Springboks’ preparations and the collaborative nature of the set-up.

Under the tutelage of Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, South Africa lifted the William Webb Ellis Cup in 2019 and then became just the second nation to defend their title.

The Boks had unconventional tactics in both tournament victories, including the makeup of the benches, the infamous ‘Bomb Squad’ and 7-1 split, to calling for a scrum in their own 22 from a mark call.

Players being themselves

Speaking on the Behind the Ruck Podcast, Kolisi was asked by former Bok scrum-half Rudy Paige how Erasmus and Nienaber were able to get the buy-in from the entire squad for these tactics and the style of play.

“Everything came from the top in coach Rassie and Jacques and the whole coaching staff. They make the plans, they bring them to the group and say, ‘This is what we think, what do you guys think?'” Kolisi explained.

“Everybody has a say, whether you have one cap or even zero caps, but you’re in the mix, everybody has a say, and we then all agree. Obviously, the coaches have the last say in everything, but we all have our input.

“At the end, the coaches say, ‘This is what we’re going with’ and everybody buys in.”

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Players being themselves

While Kolisi credits the collaborative nature of the coaching staff as a reason that the Springboks all bought into the plans, he adds that players parking their egos also had a role.

This meant that putting South Africa first and your personal goals second was the mantra the players had to adopt.

“Whether it’s what you wanted (the plan)… because remember, your ego gets left at the door when you play for the Springboks. The Springboks are more important than you because we’re representing South Africa, and that’s the most important thing,” he added.

“We want to make people proud. It’s not about us anymore, and that was the biggest thing for us as a group, which kept us going.

“We knew that our own personal dreams and goals would only be achieved if the team achieved what they wanted, so we put the country first; we put the Springboks first.

“If you didn’t buy into that, you worked yourself out (of the squad) because we’ve got a mission, got a goal to do and have over 65 million people looking at us.

“The thing is that we’re diverse; we’ve all come from different backgrounds, different skin colours, different races and different religions.

“We all had to make that work, and coach Rassie always told us, ‘You’re going to have to learn to mind each other. We have to create an environment where each person can be themselves so they can be the best for the team.'”

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