Siya Kolisi will go into this autumn’s Rugby World Cup as captain of defending champions South Africa but the man who last lifted the William Webb Ellis Cup in 2019 has insisted it will be Ireland who are the team to chase when battle commences in France.
The back-rower will face Irish opposition on home soil in Durban this Saturday afternoon when his Sharks welcome Munster to Kings Park for a Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 clash with the visitors set to welcome back Six Nations Grand Slam-winning heroes Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray to their ranks for the knockout tie.
Yet sights in both nations have already been set on the Test showdown ahead when Ireland face South Africa in their penultimate Pool A game at Stade de France on September 23.
The Springboks’ skipper, talking yesterday to preview this weekend’s Champions Cup contest, lavished Andy Farrell’s team with praise for the world number one-ranked team’s championship clean sweep.
“Special, it was honestly special,” Kolisi said “They played really well. For a couple of years in a row now, they have been playing really well.
“They are a tough team, an amazing team. You can see they are a tight group. I know some of the guys in the group and I am really happy for them.
“When another team does well, you shouldn’t feel bad. The opposition doing well can make you want to be better and play at that kind of level.
“They really deserved it. They played well in the whole Six Nations and they faced a couple of challenges that they had to fix on the day. Getting the number seven (Josh van der Flier) to throw into the lineout.
“They didn’t lose a step in that, so they really did well. They deserve to be the number one so everybody is chasing them going forward.”
Kolisi also took time to hail fit-again World Cup-winning team-mate RG Snyman as an inspiration and praised Munster for standing by the lock through his two-year injury ordeal.
Snyman, 28, is line for the third game of his comeback from the second of two major knee reconstructions that have limited his game time with Munster to just six caps since his arrival in the summer of 2020.
“It’s never nice to see a player go through an injury period, especially a long one like he has,” Kolisi said of Snyman. “For him to stay in the fight, because a lot of people can give up and just not work, but he stayed in it. And it shows as well, how special of a team Munster are as a club, as a union, to stick with him and keep on looking after him.
“That’s the values you want in a club, that’s going to be with you through the toughest of times and him staying there and fighting through it.
“For us it’s an inspiration to keep on going and working hard until he got to that moment and I don’t care who he plays for, it doesn’t matter who he is, as long as a player is like that I really get inspired by that and I’ve been rooting for him.
“Obviously I want him to do well because he’s a very good friend of mine. I really enjoy playing with him and it’s not always nice to play against him and I don’t want him to play too well but I’m glad that he’s on the pitch and is playing.”