one month after the Springboks’ coronation, Siya Kolisi’s big debut with Racing 92

By Arnaud Coudry

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Siya Kolisi surrounded by Laurent Travers and Stuart Lancaster, respectively president and manager of Racing 92. THOMAS SAMSON / AFP

The third row and captain of world champion South Africa will play his first match in his new colors, this Sunday at the Arena, against La Rochelle.

The long-awaited moment has – finally – arrived. Less than a month after picking up his second world title with South Africa, Siya Kolisi (32 years old) will play his first match with Racing 92, his new club, this Sunday evening, against Stade Rochelais. An event that the Ile-de-France club will celebrate with great fanfare at Paris La Défense Arena, in prime time on Canal +.

After the long celebrations in which he participated in South Africa after the Boks’ coronation, the South African captain was officially presented at the beginning of November at Plessis-Robinson. And had not hidden his impatience at the idea of ​​starting with Racing 92. “I can’t wait to play my first match, he had whispered. I feel good, I have already participated in training with my new teammates. I was like a kid on the first day of school.”

After this first contact, the former player of the Cape Stormers and Durban Sharks was entitled to a few extra days of vacation, during which he went to New York. In addition to its obligations with its partners and promotion with its foundation, he had attended the NBA match between the Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic (124-104). Before warmly supporting, from the Jean-Bouin stands, his teammates during the derby won against Stade Français Paris and returning to training at the start of the week.

“I have a reputation but it’s not the reputation that will play a role on the pitch”

With the firm attention to bringing all his experience and energy to his new teammates. “I have a reputation but it is not the reputation that will play a role on the pitch, he says. I have to prove myself, learn a new language and understand a new culture.” A motivation that he repeated last Sunday on the set of Channel Rugby Club : “I can’t wait to play. The Top 14 is the missing piece for me. I came for my reputation. It is one of the most difficult championships in the world. I have to prove myself on the field.”

One thing is certain, Siya Kolisi has not had any integration problems in Hauts-de-Seine. Warm, sunny and enthusiastic, he quickly won over his new teammates. Let him not hesitate to spoof. Like this joke towards his new hooker: “I haven’t yet managed to find Camille Chat’s neck! He doesn’t have a separation between his head and shoulders… He could be sponsored by Head & Shoulders!”

An impression confirmed by his new third-line partner, international Ibrahim Diallo, who told Olympic Midday : “He is friendly, relaxed, adorable… Usually, new people stay in their corner. Usually, you’re the one who picks them up to make them feel comfortable. Him ? He goes to see everyone, takes an interest in you and after five minutes, you feel like you have a lifelong friend in front of you.” And to confide that he is – too – teased by the Springbok: “He noticed that I was putting on moisturizer in the locker room and since then, hasn’t stopped pampering me with it. He blended in.”

“Taking full advantage of my role as a father is ultimately the most important thing”

Even if this total change of life was not easy, at first, for the Boks flanker with 83 caps. “It’s a little difficulthe recognizes. I’ve played in South Africa all my life and to move to a new club, so different, is special. But my teammates and Jacky Lorenzetti (club owner) made things easier for me. My family moved before me so everything is going very well.” With, of course, other advantages: “I will be able to walk in the street without anyone recognizing me. I will be able to drop my children off at school and fully enjoy my role as a father. This is, in the end, the most important thing for me.”

Read alsoRugby: songs, speeches, selfies… Kolisi, the captain of the Springboks, puts on a show for his return to the country

All that remains is to find his place on the field. Within an Altosequan team, co-leader of the Top 14 after seven days, which has so far succeeded in starting a new cycle under the orders of Stuart Lancaster, former coach of the XV de la Rose (2011-2015) and ex- deputy in the Irish province of Leinster (2016-2023). “I spoke with the coach, we spoke in his office and he asked me how I felt after being crowned world champion, what my feelings were. He wanted me to rest but I really wanted to meet my new teammates. He gave me advice and I realized how lucky I was to come here..” An opportunity that will last until 2026.

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