Siya Kolisi Biography: Early Life and Education | Club Career | International Career | Personal Life
Siya Kolisi is a rugby player and the captain of the South African national team, the Springboks. He is also the first black man to lead South Africa to win the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
Early Life and Education
Siya Kolisi was born on June 16, 1991, in Zwide, a township in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. He was born exactly 15 years after the Soweto Youth Uprisings and 16 months after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. His mother, Phakama, was 16 when Siya was born and his father, Fezakele, was in his final year of school. Kolisi’s mother died, leaving his late grandmother, Nolulamile, to raise him.
Kolisi started playing rugby at seven whilst at Emsengeni Primary School, where he met his mentor Eric Songwiqi. He joined the African Bombers Rugby Club and impressed scouts at a youth tournament in Mossel Bay at 12.
Kolisi earned a scholarship at Grey Junior School in Port Elizabeth, one of the most prestigious schools in the country. He later received a rugby scholarship to Grey High School, which had produced many famous sportsmen like Graeme Pollock and Mike Catt.
Kolisi learned English from his classmate Nicholas Holton, who became his best friend and later his best man at his wedding. Kolisi also taught Holton isiXhosa in return. Kolisi’s son is named after Holton. He excelled in rugby at Grey High School, captaining the U16A team and representing the Eastern Province Kings and the South Africa Schools teams in various tournaments.
In 2010, Siya Kolisi moved to Stellenbosch to join the Western Province Rugby Institute. He made his senior debut for Western Province in the 2011 Vodacom Cup against the Golden Lions. Kolisi also played regularly in the Currie Cup, scoring four tries during the campaign. He made his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers in 2012, becoming a key player for them in 16 appearances.
Kolisi continued to play for Western Province and the Stormers until 2020, winning the Currie Cup twice (in 2012 and 2014) and becoming one of the most popular and respected players in South Africa. He received nominations for several awards, including the SA Rugby Player of the Year (2017) and the Laureus World Sports Award for Breakthrough of the Year (2019).
In 2021, Siya Kolisi signed a contract with the Sharks, a rival team of the Stormers, after a dispute with Western Province Rugby over his salary and image rights. He made his debut for the Sharks in the Currie Cup against Griquas and scored a try. Kolisi also played for them in Super Rugby Unlocked and Super Rugby AU2. In April 2023, he announced that he would join Racing 92, a French club based in Paris, after the British and Irish Lions tour.
Siya Kolisi International Career
Kolisi represented South Africa at the U20 level in 2010 and 2011, playing in the IRB Junior World Championship. He made his senior debut for the Springboks in 2013 against Scotland at Mbombela Stadium. The player scored his first international try in Durban against France on 17 June 2017.
In 2018, Kolisi was appointed as the captain of the Springboks by coach Rassie Erasmus, becoming the first black man to hold the position. He led South Africa to a historic series victory over England (2-1) and a famous win over New Zealand (36-34) in Wellington during the Rugby Championship.
In 2019, Siya Kolisi achieved his greatest feat, captaining South Africa to win the Rugby World Cup in Japan. He became the third SA captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup after Francois Pienaar (1995) and John Smit (2007). Kolisi also became the first black captain to win the World Cup in rugby history. He played a crucial role in SA’s campaign, scoring a try against Italy in the pool stage and leading by example in the final against England (32-12).
Kolisi has received praise for his leadership skills, inspirational story, and role in uniting Mzansi through rugby. He was one of the 100 Most Influential Africans by New African magazine (in 2019) and one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (in 2020). Kolisi has also received the National Order of Ikhamanga, the highest honour in South Africa for excellence in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism, and sports.
Siya Kolisi Personal Life
Siya Kolisi married Rachel Smith, a former marketing executive, in 2016. They have two biological children, Nicholas Siyamthanda and Keziah Amina, and two adopted children, Liyema and Liphelo, Kolisi’s half-siblings from his mother’s side. The couple are part of various charitable initiatives, such as the Kolisi Foundation, which aims to support vulnerable communities.
Kolisi is also a passionate fan of Liverpool FC, a football club in England. He has met some of the players and the manager, Jurgen Klopp, and has received a personalised jersey from them. He also enjoys playing golf and watching movies in his spare time.
- Erasmus hails Kolisi: ‘There was a time when Siya didn’t have food to eat’ – Guardian
- Siya Kolisi: Everything you need to know about the inspirational Springbok skipper – Planet Rugby
- Who is Siya Kolisi: Ten things you should know about the Springbok captain – Rugby World
- Siya Kolisi ties the knot – City Press