Springbok captain Siya Kolisi on Friday said his team would once again hope to lift the spirits of a troubled nation when they play the first Test against the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town on Saturday.
“We are South Africans before we are Springbok rugby players,” said Kolisi, referring to his country’s coronavirus pandemic and recent violent protests which claimed the lives of more than 300 people.
Kolisi was widely praised for his speech after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in 2019, saying: “There are so many problems in our country, but we have a team like this from different backgrounds and different ethnicities who all had the same goal which they wanted to achieve.
“I really hope we’ve done this for South Africa to show that we can all pull together to achieve something.”
He said on Friday that problems seemed to coincide with big games by the Springboks, who will play three Tests against the Lions on consecutive Saturdays.
“We are going to make sure that we focus on the job that we have to do. As coach Rassie [Erasmus] said in the buildup to the World Cup, we are in a place of privilege. We do what we love every single day.
“If we are able to put a smile on peoples’ faces and, for a moment in time, let everybody else put their problems aside when we win, they feel like they win, too, that whatever our difficult situation is we are always able to pull together.
“We’ve got families, we’ve got friends, we’ve got people who have suffered during this time. We want to make sure that while we have the privilege to do what we do, we give it our ultimate best.
“We know people are behind us, no matter what it is they are going through. If we can put a smile on people’s faces, it will make us happy and drive us even more.”
© Agence France-Presse