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The subtle transformation in Siya Kolisi's game over The Rugby Championship

By Jan De Koning
Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Siyamthanda Kolisi produced arguably the most influential performance of his Springbok career in South Africa’s 24-8 demolition of the Wallabies in Sydney this past weekend.

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Apart from his Man of the Match performance, there was a not-so-subtle change in his style – something that has been coming along throughout the Rugby Championship, but finally emerged in all its glory in Round Four.

Kolisi has, for years, been denounced for his playing style – performing the role of a ‘wing forward’.

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Despite wearing the No.6 jersey, he often roamed in the open field as a ball-carrier – getting possession in the tramlines near touch and speeding towards the tryline.

It did not go down well with a large collection of Bok fans, who prefer their loose forwards to be hard-grafting players in the trenches.

However, in the current edition of the Rugby Championship, a distinctly alternative style of play emerged from the Bok skipper.

Not only was he more active on defence – with his tackle count often into double digits – but Kolisi also got stuck in at the breakdown.

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The results were not immediately evident, but the 31-year-old’s transformation was glaring in Sydney.

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He played like a traditional openside flank – No.6 in South Africa and No.7 in the rest of the world.

In the Boks’ bonus-point win, at the Sydney Football Stadium, the 69-times capped loose forward delivered in all aspects.

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He had seven carries for 21 metres.

That, in itself, is not something that would have silenced his critics, until you see that he also beat three defenders and had a sublime offload.

Now add in his eight tackles, with only one missed tackle, and his work at the breakdown – three crucial turnovers won.

Those turnovers – in a team that has master poachers like Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff – tell you exactly how much Kolisi’s game has evolved.

While not many would have picked up on the transition in the earlier rounds of the Rugby Championship, the numbers tell a story of their own.

In the first three rounds, Kolisi had 11 carries for 33 metres, beat two defenders, made 32 tackles and won two turnovers.

While it is unlikely his detractors will all be won over by one game, the Bok captain has come a long way since his Test debut against Scotland as a 21-year-old a decade ago.

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