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'As a leader, it was the toughest week I ever had to face'

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi delivered an immense performance against the Lions.

Siya Kolisi, Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am deny Robbie Henshaw.
Siya Kolisi, Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am deny Robbie Henshaw.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

WHILE THE LIONS trudged back to their hotel 90 minutes outside Cape Town last night to lick their wounds, the Springboks returned to their base in the Mother City to be welcomed by the warm embrace of their wives, partners, and children.

Among Rassie Erasmus’ many calculated moves in recent weeks, integrating the players’ families into the Boks’ bubble has been right up there as the smartest.

We can only imagine how feral the atmosphere would have been in a packed-out Cape Town Stadium last night as the Springboks put their knee on the Lions’ throats – in the literal sense, rather than the physical – and kept it there until the final whistle.

It was a great shame for the Boks not to be able to celebrate in person with their supporters as they move on to Test three with real confidence, but they were at least able to enjoy the victory with their loved ones back at the team base.

“Having our families, to be honest, has been one of the things that have helped me a lot,” said captain Siya Kolisi last night. “Seeing my kids afterwards, any tough day at training, come home, and the wives and kids are waiting. It’s very special.”

Kolisi would have felt pride last night after delivering an outstanding individual performance full of moments of leadership. His try-saving intervention on Robbie Henshaw just before half time was a monumental moment, while he led the tackle charts with 14.

The 30-year-old admitted afterwards that he had tough times in the build-up to the second Test, questioning his own leadership credentials after the Boks’ defeat to the Lions last weekend, when he felt referee Nic Berry hadn’t shown him respect.

ken-owens-after-the-game-with-siya-kolisi Kolisi with Ken Owens last night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It has been a tough week and a half,” said Kolisi. “Honestly, for me personally as a leader, it was the toughest week I ever had to face, with everything happening.

“That is nothing personal [about Berry], you know? I didn’t want to elaborate on it because I want to talk to the person about it.

“Today was better. I went to Ben [O'Keeffe, yesterday's referee] before, it was great working with him. He came to me afterwards and said, ‘Thank you.’ Mathieu [Raynal] as well, the ref for next week.”

The Springboks’ performance yesterday was impressive. They trailed 9-6 at half time but kicked on to another level thereafter, scoring two excellent tries, hammering the Lions at set-piece time and benefitting from a huge impact off the bench by their ‘bomb squad’.

“Fortunately, Jacques [Nienaber] and the coaches made sure we focused on the things that we could fix,” said Kolisi. “We know we made a lot of mistakes out there last week, especially with the maul and everything. We put all the focus on what we could fix.

“Lineout, it was tough, they stole a couple of our balls but when we got it, we said, ‘Any one we win, we can get on the floor and move as hard as we can.’

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“Our scrum, we wanted to make sure we didn’t give penalties. We gave a couple of penalties away but we said we were going to go for it.

siya-kolisi-at-the-coin-toss-with-ben-okeefe-and-alun-wyn-jones Kolisi, Ben O'Keeffe, and Alun Wyn Jones. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“As a team, we go back to what we know with the systems, the structures of the team, working on fixes. Every individual looks at what you need to do.

“That’s what we went to because you can’t control everything, but what we can apply on the field, that’s what we focused on.”

It all tees the Boks up nicely for next weekend’s deciding Test at the same venue, with Erasmus and Nienaber’s men carrying all the momentum into this final clash with the Lions.

“It’s game on,” said Kolisi. “We are going to go again. Nothing is different. We are just going to try and do what we did today even harder.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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