Siya Kolisi. Picture: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU /AFP
Siya Kolisi. Picture: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU /AFP

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has admitted he was naive about the significance of installing Siya Kolisi as SA’s first black rugby captain.

On Thursday, Erasmus spoke after announcing his team‚ which Kolisi will lead in his 50th Test‚ to play England in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama.

The coach conceded the moment was far bigger than he thought when he made Kolisi captain for the three-Test series against England in 2018.

Erasmus admitted that with the initial appointment of Kolisi as captain, the plan had never been to get the country behind the team or even to have another plan for Kolisi.  

“One day you might hear from the players how Siya was appointed captain. Siya was actually the best-performing Super Rugby captain. That is why he became the captain of the Springboks.”

Erasmus said the captaincy was sprung on Kolisi.

“I didn’t have a lot of conversations with him for that first Test when he became captain. We didn’t sit down for five months and strategise and make a plan.

“Pieter-Steph [du Toit] was the captain for the Wales Test and Siya for the England Tests. It was a sudden thing and I was maybe a bit naive not thinking it would be such a massive thing.

“The whole emotional thing that went around in SA with him being the first black captain caught Siya off-guard. It caught me off-guard and I think his game suffered a little‚” Erasmus said.

“I thought his form suffered the first few games [as Kolisi became overwhelmed with the off-field demands and distractions].

“I think it got better. He was always a great captain‚ we all know that. He was always a great player but his game suffered a little in the beginning.

“When that got better he got an injury, and when he got back from that we had to slowly get him into the mix again for the Rugby World Cup.”

Kolisi was eased into the training group ahead of the World Cup and is running into form at just about the right time.

“But I think the timing is great‚” said the coach. “In the last two matches he had great games again. We also managed his game time really well.

“He is firing fit to have a good final‚” said Erasmus‚ who has been substituting Kolisi with Francois Louw after the hour mark.

He may have been naive before but the weight of the occasion at Yokohama Stadium on Saturday is not lost on Erasmus.

“It is his 50th Test match and I think it is fitting‚” said the coach. “It is a wonderful occasion for the first black captain. It has sunk into me too. I understand how big it is. I’m not so naive anymore. For him to run out in his 50th Test is a wonderful story.”