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Siya Kolisi reveals alcohol battle leading up to World Cup success

By Sam Smith
(Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

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Springboks captain Siya Kolisi has lifted the lid on his battle with alcohol in the lead-up to South Africa’s triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

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Speaking to The Guardian, Kolisi revealed his struggles with alcoholism, which plagued him during his early years in the Springboks and impacted his 2015 World Cup tournament in England, where the Springboks finished third.

“I drank when I was happy or sad, or dealing with something. Drinking was the only way I knew to get through this stuff,” Kolisi said.

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The 30-year-old, who debuted for the Springboks in 2013 and became the team’s first-ever black captain, said his personal demons affected him to the point that his partner – Rachel, who he would marry in 2016 – left the 2015 World Cup a week early.

Kolisi credits his wife with helping him turn his life around by guiding him towards a Christian mentor, Ben Schoeman, who gave the 63-test star a blunt assessment of his situation at the time.

“Siya, you drink a lot, you fool around with women, you go to strip clubs. You post on social media about your faith in Christ, but you’re lying to yourself and everyone else,” Kolisi said Schoeman told him.

With Schoeman’s help, Kolisi stopped his drinking habits, something he said was difficult to break but was life-changing for him and his family.

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“I started opening up to him and we spoke deeply. He told me I needed to stop drinking. It was tough at the beginning but now I don’t miss it,” he told The Guardian.

“I want to encourage people that it’s okay to look for help. Too many people commit suicide out of desperation because they’re too proud to talk to someone else.

“I want to encourage men to speak because they don’t talk to each other. Men don’t open up or want to cry. Men want to look strong at all times. But life is not about that. You can’t carry all that weight because it can break you.”

Kolisi said that he, with the help of Rachel, is now aiming to use his platform for good to help address the issue of gender violence, which he was confronted with in his own household as a child when his mother was a victim of abuse.

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“You win the World Cup and get given a platform,” Kolisi said. “Rachel said: ‘You couldn’t help your mother or your aunt but you can help other women.’

“She was right. Gender violence hurts me even if I am a man. I have my own daughter, my wife and my sister. I would never want them to suffer this violence.”

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