South Africa’s Rugby World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi has given his thoughts on the current Black Lives Matter movement. The campaign has been at the forefront of public consciousness for almost two months now, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, and the 29-year-old said he has been “observing and listening” to what has been said.
After seeing people speak about the movement in sport, Kolisi provided his views in a video on social media, saying that it is “more than just about sport, it’s everyday life” for him.
He recounted his experiences growing up, having come from a township in Port Elizabeth to become the Springboks’ first black captain in 2018, but conceded that “I felt my life didn’t matter since I was a little kid growing up in a township.”
The 50-cap Springbok shared how he had to adapt to new cultures and languages throughout his life in order to feel accepted.
This spanned from his time at Grey High School to first playing for South Africa, where he felt “stupid and embarrassed” for not speaking Afrikaans.
But he said many people did not understand or think about the trials he experienced coming from a township, where he would sometimes not even have one meal a day.
In response to this, he said: “I encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and go more into other areas so they can see and understand why people are struggling, why people are saying their lives don’t matter.”
It was only in 2018 under Rassie Erasmus that there was a culture transformation in the South Africa team.
Kolisi outlined this shift and new mindset of the team, saying: “People must feel valued, every culture must be represented because in South Africa we are a unique country.
“Apartheid was in South Africa, so things must change and be done differently whether we like it or not. Transformation has to be part of this while we are winning. And that conversation actually changed the game for us as a team, then we felt valued.”
Recently named rugby’s most influential person by Rugby World, Kolisi will know the profound impact he can have in his country. This was salient after the RWC success in 2019, not only in the way it united a nation, but how it showed the fruits of the team’s Stronger Together campaign.
He said that this ethos must spill over into society, and encouraged leaders and politicians, as well as people in their workplace to have this “difficult conversation”, adding “If my suffering and my pain doesn’t affect you, then we are actually not stronger together.”
Kolisi finished by saying “the next generation cannot suffer like we did,” calling for change.
He said: “It’s time for all of us to change and actually start living for the South Africa that so many people fought for so many people died for.
“We should be the generation that’s changing this. It’s 2020 right now, so many people have suffered to make this country a better place.
“It’s time for all of us to come together because it’s the only way we can fight this, the only way we can beat this.”
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