Springboks often talk about their ability to go to a “dark place” and extract the best they can offer under the greatest pressure. While this group of gamers may have overcome some tough hurdles in their time together, they may have come to their most challenging time.
Earlier this week, South African fans were rocked by the bombshell news that their inspiring leader Siya Kolisi could miss the World Cup in France after it was revealed her knee injury is worse than expected.
It’s hard to imagine this Boks squad without the athletic figure of Kolisi sporting the iconic number six jersey with the team behind him, ready for battle.
A rugby icon
The 31-year-old has become a holistic embodiment of what a modern Bok is. He is hardworking, committed and focused on the collective. Kolisi’s rise since taking over as South Africa’s first black captain has been exponential after holding the William Webb Ellis trophy almost four years ago.
Since wearing the armband, he has grown tremendously as a leader and is a respected player from all corners of the rugby ecosystem. Quite simply, his leadership is irreplaceable. Yes, there are some incredible leaders around Kolisi in the Boks set-up, such as Handre Pollard, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and Lukhanyo Am, but the void the 2019 World Cup winning captain will leave is huge.
Outside of his leadership, Kolisi has grown into a well-rounded player with an incredible engine. The physicality of him defending him is brutal, while his running game in the outside channels has also developed significantly. He is a complete player and it will be difficult to replace him.
Kwagga Smith is the likely replacement and will offer something a little different with a high focus on failure. He is an outstanding player and one with extensive experience in the game. Should he wear Kolisi’s shirt, the pressure will be on to make an impact.
Outgoing head coach
The Kolisi news comes not long after manager Jacques Nienaber confirmed he would be leaving after the global masterpiece to join Leinster as senior manager.
The transparency of the decision made sense as it is one of the policies the Boks like to operate on, but it has opened the door to media speculation about who will succeed Nienaber after the World Cup. The management would have expected it, but it all seems a little more amplified after the news of the injury.
The reason for the transparent approach with Bok structures is for stability and as little disturbance as possible. However, the loss of one of the greatest Bok captains the game has seen and the confirmation of the manager’s departure will increase the pressure on the squad.
It all adds up to what has been a difficult cycle since their memorable triumph in 2019 after no rugby was played in the country in 2020 due to the pandemic.
A good series victory against the British & Irish Lions under unique conditions followed in 2021. Then, in 2022, there was the mid-flight injury crisis coupled with some off-field issues that have since been resolved.
It’s time to show their metal
Ultimately, it didn’t go as smooth as the Boks would have hoped, but this is a squad full of World Cup winners, players who have been there and done it. In sports, there is great power in experience.
Rassie Erasmus talks about the Boks wanting to go back and become the best team in history. He would never have been handed over to him. There was always going to be some sort of disruption or adversity.
Now is the time to see the power of the squad to unlock the monstrous mentality that saw them rise from the ashes of 2018 and claim rugby’s biggest prize.
The champions never sit back, and now the Boks have to go to their dark place with their backs to the wall and prove they are still World Cup winning material.
TO KNOW MORE: Siya Kolisi: Springboks captain set for Rugby World Cup heartbreak – report
The article Springboks need to show champions mentality in absence of inspiring skipper Siya Kolisi first appeared on Planetrugby.com.