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Siya Kolisi and Mahlatse Mashua at the Roc Nation Sports International headquarters in New York. Picture: SUPPLIED
Siya Kolisi and Mahlatse Mashua at the Roc Nation Sports International headquarters in New York. Picture: SUPPLIED

Captain Siya Kolisi is the rock on which the nation’s hopes will hopefully be built when the Springboks take on Scotland at this week’s Rugby World Cup opening weekend in France.

But as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and when it comes to Kolisi he has another nation watching his back in every move, both on and off the field.

Kolisi is one of global sports management company Roc Nation Sports International’s most high-profile aces in the pack and this week the company’s SA MD, Mahlatse Mashua, took time out to explain what goes into looking after the wellbeing of one of SA’s sporting jewels.

Of course, Roc Nation Sports International also look after other rugby stars. Cheslin Kolbe, Aphelele Fassi, Jordan Hendrikse and the now-retired Tendai Mtawarira are the others, as well as national netball skipper Bongi Msomi and Cape Town City football ace Luphumlo “Kaka” Sifumba, while on the team side they also have Mamelodi Sundowns on their books.

But when it comes to Kolisi, it’s personal for 38-year-old Bushbuckridge-born Mashua, who has known Kolisi since 2019 and the trust levels are high.

“One of our first conversations was ‘how do we move from a shared troubled history to a shared hopeful future as a country’,” he recalled this week.

“We touch base with Siya almost every day, such is the nature of my/our relationship with him. There’s a commercial and business side to it but it’s anchored on a personal level,” says Mashua, who has degrees in Biochemistry (UKZN), Theology (Oxford University) and a Master’s Degree in International Affairs — Cybermediation (King’s College London).

“So we source contracts and negotiate them on his behalf, ensuring that he gets the best financial and deliverable terms, as in what he is expected to do in return for the contract.”

And like life, the situation when it comes to looking after both a national and human asset, has to be fluid at all times, an example of which will be seen now that Kolisi and his family are moving to France.

“There are constant fluctuations, from year to year and era to era,” says Mashua, “so we’ll continue to explore the French market to see who and what is best suited to him and his brand, and which will further complement his current SA partners.”

But Mashua, who is the founding CEO of the Kolisi Foundation, is at pains to point out that Kolisi will eternally be invested in SA and that his heart is always going to be green and gold.

And that goes long after the final whistle has been blown and the rugby togs tossed into the laundry bag.

“We’re always focusing on personal development as well and constantly challenging each other to be better husbands and fathers — we often talk about how to be an active, positive presence in the lives of our families. He absolutely loves his wife [Rachel], their children, his brother and sister.

“He has such strong family and faith values — the constant quest is how to live them out with such a demanding schedule.”

Humble is a word that hums throughout the making of Kolisi.

“It’s powerful to see how consistent he is when it comes to this,” says Mashua, “He’s first to admit that he’s not a self-made man. Of course, he is a success story, from a challenging background, has persevered and worked hard, but one thing he never leaves out of his story is about how other people have come into his life to supplement his big dreams with resources, mentoring and support. He’s not afraid to ask people about things he’s not well versed in.

“And he always credits the communities he’s lived in, his wife, coach Rassie Erasmus, Vincent Mai who funded his bursary to Grey High and even his longtime childhood friend, Tamsanqa Ncwana, who he’s still in constant touch with to this day.”

In fact Ncwana is one of Roc Nation SA’s newest signings in a recruitment role to find the next generation of Siyas.

“Kolisi is a man not afraid to learn, not afraid to tap into areas of knowledge he’s unfamiliar with. His understanding grows as he listens to stories ... he learns and is always willing to learn,” Mashua says.

“I have to admit I just love seeing the man he’s growing into ... I’ve witnessed the past four years and I actually shudder to think who he will be in the next five years.”

And by all accounts when it comes to the Bok skipper, what you see is what you get. “There’s no difference between the public image and the man,” Mashua says.

“Walking through a shopping mall with him is an absolute nightmare ... so many people want to take pics with him even though he doesn’t see himself as a celebrity. And his appeal is so broad, it goes through children to adults, men to women, the different racial demographics that he appeals to is incredible. They say you should never meet your superheroes because you’ll be disappointed. Not with Siya though!”

And yet Kolisi still is very much human, and has spoken about his challenges and failures in his deeply personal documentary Rise. He has also had more than his fair share of injury and health scares.

“There was the injury scare before the 2019 World Cup which was tough for him as he had worked so hard to make the team, the same this year with his knee injury just before the World Cup,” Mashua adds.

“But the scariest was probably when he took a bad knock against the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship in Australia two years ago.

“He said there was a period that he couldn’t feel his body at all and he was absolutely terrified — he often goes back to thinking what could have, or could still, go wrong in a contact sport like rugby.”

Sunday sees the Boks tackle Scotland and when Kolisi leads SA onto the field in France he’ll again do so in the knowledge that two “nations” have got his back well and truly covered.

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