As the victorious South African national rugby team prepare to return home to a hero’s welcome, one player’s life story has captured the world’s imagination. Captain, Siya Kolisi has been on an extraordinary journey. Growing up in an extremely poor township outside Port Elizabeth, his mother died when he was just 15 years old and his family struggled to get him a decent education. “Sometimes we didn’t have enough money to pay my primary school fees of R50 ($4) a year,” Siya said. Relying solely on his talent and a relentlessly positive attitude, Siya was eventually scouted for his athletic talent after being spotted playing a sports game with his friends.
He earned a scholarship to the prestigious Grey High School in Port Elizabeth. The rest was history. Fast forward to Tokyo and this extraordinary player, the first black man to captain the South African national team, was lifting the Webb Ellis trophy aloft, his proud family watching on. Siya’s father, who had never left the country before, was flown out to see his boy lead the team to victory. “I’m really happy that I could organize for him to come”, the 28-year-old captain said in Tokyo. “When I was a kid, all I was thinking about was getting my next meal,” Kolisi said following the victory. “There are so many people in South Africa (SA) who just need an opportunity.
I got my opportunity and took it with both hands. There so many stories like this in South Africa.” He’s also an extremely compassionate man, spending 18 months embroiled in a legal battle to gain custody of his half-brother and sister, who had been taken into care after his mother’s death. “I found a cousin who told me where they were. They were at school at the time but I came back later and met them. You can imagine how emotional it was,” he said. “In 2012 when I was in camp with the Boks, I went to Zwide to look for them because I hadn’t seen them in years. I had to go through a legal process which took about 18 months, but I finally legally adopted them.”
But there is another aspect to Kolisi’s story that is not talked about so much in the press, he is also a committed Christian. Speaking to SportGo Mag just prior to the World Cup, the rugby star opened up about how the Lord had been getting him ready for the big stage by refining his character. “God has been preparing me for such a time as this,” he said. “While struggling with a lot of things personally, temptations, sins and lifestyle choices, I realized I wasn’t living according to what I was calling myself: a follower of Christ. I was getting by, but I hadn’t decided to fully commit myself to Jesus Christ and start living according to His way.”
Kolisi continued: “Something I was struggling with in my personal life was suddenly exposed to the public. Up until then everything I was fighting against was hidden, but when my sin was exposed, I knew I either had to change my life, or lose everything. I decided to lose my life and find it in Christ. Walking alongside a spiritual mentor, I’ve been able to discover the saving power of Christ in a whole new way. This new life has given me a peace I’ve never experienced before. Now that I have given everything to God, nothing else affects me. I now live and play with the freedom of knowing His plan will always happen, and at the end of the day, that’s all I care about!”
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