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Rugby World Cup 2019: Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s first-ever black captain, stands on cusp of history

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Rugby World Cup 2019: Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s first-ever black captain, stands on cusp of history

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  • Kolisi was four when South Africa won the World Cup in a defining moment for South Africa. He was 16 when the Springboks won their second title.

  • Joining Siya Kolisi in the starting forward pack will be two black front-rowers, 34-year-old prop Tendai Mtawarira and hooker Bongi Mbonambi.

  • Try-scoring winger Chester Williams, who died in September, was the only person of color in that Springboks XV that won the World Cup in 1995.

Tokyo:It was the week after Siya Kolisi’s fourth birthday when Nelson Mandela presented Springboks captain Francois Pienaar with the Webb Ellis Cup in a defining moment for rugby, and for South Africa.

Rugby World Cup 2019: Siya Kolisi, South Africas first-ever black captain, stands on cusp of history

South Africa’s Siya Kolisi, (right) celebrate after defeating Japan in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final. AP Photo

Kolisi was 16 when the Springboks won their second Rugby World Cup title. There was no television at his home, he recalls, so he had to go to a tavern to watch John Smit lift the trophy after beating England in the 2007 final in Paris.

Twelve years on, the first black player appointed as Springboks captain gets a chance to etch his name in history on Saturday when he leads South Africa in the final against England at Yokohama.

“I know what it did for us back then,” Kolisi said of that 2007 victory. “I have never seen people come together (like that) over sport.”

Momentum for that started in 1995, the year after Mandela became president in a democratic election after decades of racial segregation and his own imprisonment for 27 years. He was pivotal in ensuring the Springboks kept their name, their emblem and their green jersey in the wake of the apartheid era, hoping it could help unite a deeply divided country rather than be a symbol of oppression.

South Africa had been re-admitted to international sport following sanctions, and was hosting the Rugby World Cup in ’95 when the Springboks held off New Zealand in the final. Mandela famously wore a Springboks jersey with the No 6 on the back, Pienaar’s number, at the cup presentation.

It was the beginning of a new era. Joining Kolisi in the starting forward pack — the engine room of the Springboks game plan — will be two black front-rowers: 34-year-old prop Tendai Mtawarira and hooker Bongi Mbonambi.

Mtawarira, a trailblazer with 116 test caps for South Africa, takes great pride in Ko

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