The Rugby Union Writers’ Club has awarded one of their highest accolades to South Africa’s World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi.
The 28-year-old received the Pat Marshall Memorial Award from RUWC committee member Dave Rogers in Cape Town, with Kolisi transmitting a video message to London on the eve of the club celebrating their diamond jubilee in the British capital.
The award is granted for whom the RUWC deem the rugby union personality of the year.
Kolisi became South Africa’s first black test captain in 2018 by coach Rassie Ersmus, and just a year later was lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama.
The flanker’s grace, grit, and determination to success epitomized a remarkable turnaround for a Springboks outfit who had been written off for glory less than 48 months before. At the tail end of last year, following the success in Japan, he was also included on the list of 100 Most Influential Africans by New Africn magazine.
He is a powerful sporting symbol for a country whose nation is 76.4% Black South African. However, his appointment as skipper was fundamentally never meant to resonate politically.
“Siya was actually the best Super Rugby-performing team captain, and that’s the reason why he became captain of the Springboks,” Erasmus has stated previously (via rugbypass), “To be honest with you, the initial appointment of Siya as captain, my plan never was this big thing to get the country behind us and have another plan with Siya.”
But the glorious image of him lifting the Cup with an emphatic victory over England did provide a powerful statement, a culmination of extraordinary hard-work after life had granted him far from the most privileged upbringing.
Kolisi once recounted that in enduring the extreme poverty of his childhood in the township of Zwide outside Port Elizabeth, his favourite toy was a brick.
He is admirably yet understandably now continuing to use his platform to bring attention to relevant issues away from the rugby pitch, including developing sports fields and schools across his home nation.
"I have to do more than just play and I have the platform to do that," Kolisi declared to the BBC, "Some just give financially but for me, it means a lot to me, because where I come from shaped me as the person I am today.
"I'm only doing a little bit of it. I hope it inspires other people."
He also has his own crew of personal supporters, the Gwijo-squad, and has grown - in part due to his magnetic smile - to be one of the most identifiable and respected figures in his field. The Rugby Union Writers’ Club was formed in Twickenham in 1960 and in receiving the Pat Marshall Award, Kolisi joins South Africa’s first World Cup-winning captain, Francois Pienarr, to be recognised by the association.
“I’m really honoured to be accepting this award,” Kolisi expressed upon receiving it in his recorded message which was played at the event at Twickenham, “It’s a huge honour and a privilege.
“On behalf of me and my teammates - without them I wouldn’t have achieved this - and on behalf of South Africa, thank you for supporting rugby and supporting us as a country as well.
“This will mean a huge lot, especially to the people that have been supporting us all around and it’s good to see that rugby is recognised and the game is growing.
“So thank you for this. This is not just for me and my teammates in South Africa, this is for all the rugby players around the world.
“Let’s keep on growing the game.”