- South African Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is making South Africans proud as he leads his team
- Despite coming from a prestigious school, Siya has a humble beginning and the Bear is proud of his roots
- Siya has been an exceptional player since he first picked up a rugby ball
History was made when Siya Kolisi was named the first black captain of the Springboks. Kolisi is a beacon of hope for players that previously thought no black player will ever lead the Boks.
Siya may seem like he has it all now, but he has a very humble beginning. He grew up in Port Elizabeth in the Zwide township.
His mother was 16 when she had him and could not take care of him. Siya grew up with his grandmother in poverty. He had to sleep on pillows on the floor and there was times when food was very scarce.
The township is close to the prestigious Grey High School - home of some of South Africa's biggest sport legends.
But Siya went to another school, the Emsengeni Primary School. There he excelled in rugby, becoming known for his clever strategic thinking.
He was chosen to play for the Eastern Province U12B team in a tournament in the Western Cape. This is when fate smiled down on Siya.
Dean Carelse was a teacher and rugby coach at Grey High and he noticed Siya's talent immediately.
Although Siya's team lost by 50 points, his talent was obvious to Carelse.
Siya become a sensational young player and his determination and hard work paid off when he got a full scholarship to attend Grey High.
But tragedy befell Siya just before he left for Grey High. His grandmother passed away and Siya's heart was broken. Not long after, Siya's mother passed away as well.
It was at Grey High that Siya found a home and a place to hone his rugby skills. Siya met coach Carelse when he first arrived at Grey Junior School in grade 7. Carelse eventually became a father figure for Siya, but only after he got to high school.
Despite coming from a poor home, Siya adapted very well at Grey High. He was a confident young man.
Siya was always smiling and exuding an inner warmth that made him very likeable. If entering into a school with more than 160 years of traditions and a rather poshy atmosphere was intimidating, Syia never showed it.
Siya did great academically, but it was on the rugby field where he shined like a diamond. Back in those years Siya wasn't the giant he is now, but he played amazingly.
In his first year Siya was actually one of the smaller players on the rugby field. But Siya used his size to his advantage.
He used his brains and was able to read the game exceptionally well. He was always willing to pass the ball and help his teammates look better. This is a characteristic that he still exhibits.
Carelse was deeply impressed with how Siya played the game.
From day one he was a formidable talent. Not so much the star player from a try-scoring perspective in his early years, but the backbone of every team he played for. His work rate, ball skills, defensive intelligence and pure understanding of the game was superb.
He was a pleasure to coach – always the first to arrive at practice and last to leave.
Siya never forgot his roots and went back home often, but the community members would make hurtful remarks when they saw him in the Grey High school uniform. But Siya refused to wear something else. He was who he was, and he was proud.
He would play rugby with children from Zidwe and soon he become a beacon of hope for those in the township.
When Siya entered grade 10, his physical change blew everyone away. He went from one of the smallest players on the rugby field to a 6-foot tall giant, thanks to puberty. It didn't take long for him to be given a fitting nickname - Bear.
Of course, being big had its advantages in rugby and soon Siya combined the skills he learned as a small player with his new body.
This led to Siya being chose to play for the school's first team.
Siya was one of the finest school boy players the school has produced and played in the number seven jersey during his two years in the first team.
In Grade 11, the side was ranked number one in the country for the majority of the season and he was instrumental in the success of the team.
Siya's success on the field had him playing in the Eastern Province Craven Week in 2008 and 2009. He also represented the South African Schools teams in these two years.
According to Carelse, Siya was an exceptional player. He claims that Siya didn't drop the ball once during his high school rugby career.
Siya was loved by the crowds and adored by his peers. He had quite a fanbase.
His fellow students remembers Siya as a humble guy who never took becoming so popular too seriously. He treated everyone with respect and as equals.
Siya was in fact a living legend at Grey High. He would often be asked for his signature and he would be given many gifts.
Briefly.co.za earlier reported on Siya's new captaincy and how South Africa's rugby team has its first ever black captain. He was chosen to captain the Springboks in an upcoming test match against England.
Since the announcement was made, 26-year-old Kolisi has been overwhelmed with praise and love.
Now Siya is making South African rugby history as he leads his team on the field. South Africa can't help but be proud of the Bear.
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