South Africa are expected to breeze past Canada in Tuesday’s Rugby World Cup match but while the Springboks see the game as a chance to rest key players ahead of the knockout stages, captain Siya Kolisi is happy not to have been left on the sidelines.
After a knee injury had threatened to rule him out of the tournament altogether, Kolisi is keen to get more minutes in his legs as the Springboks look to seal a quarter-final berth from the Pool B match at Kobe Misaki Stadium.
Coach Rassie Erasmus felt the flanker had delivered his best performance of the tournament in South Africa’s 49-3 win over Italy on Friday, and despite the four-day turnaround has selected him to face the Canadians in a team that contains 13 changes.
“Physically I feel good, but I want to get more minutes,” Kolisi told reporters in Kobe on Monday.
“The form is getting better and better. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I’m always looking for work on the field and to try and do more. I just think it is better for me to keep on playing.”
Kolisi says South Africa do not know Canada, as well as their regular opponents in the Rugby Championship and Europe and so, must concentrate on getting their own systems and execution right. (South African expat DTH van der Merwe will be playing for Canada.)
“It comes down to what we have been doing every week. We always look at the previous game and see where we can improve,” he said. “You do look at the other team, their attacking players and how they kick.
“But we don’t really know what to expect from their individuals, so we will do our own preparations.”
Kolisi is the first black test captain of the Springboks, a hugely significant appointment for a team that was once seen as an iconic symbol of white South Africa during the Apartheid years.
While he acknowledges his role as an inspirational figure for young black players he said he did not feel his race should be a factor in how people view him.
“I’m just very happy to be captain, being the first black captain is not something that I keep in my mind the whole time,” he added.
“It is a privilege, as it would be for anybody that comes from my community, and I just want to represent them well.”
South Africa‘s players will be given two days off after the Canada match to spend time with their families having already been in Japan for five weeks, and for Kolisi it is a chance to reunite with his wife Rachel.
“Almost all our families, wives and girlfriends are out here. I’m pretty excited to have my wife and children out watching the game,” he said.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)