Siya Kolisi echos Nelson Mandela as he calls on South Africans to unite and ‘make a better country’

Kolisi has thrived despite the burden of his role (Getty Images)

Siya Kolisi called on the people of South Africa to learn from their rugby team and “make a better country” after captaining his side to a historic fourth World Cup.

The Springboks won a third match in a row by a solitary point as they edged out New Zealand in Paris, winning the final 12-11, to retain their crown as world champions.

In a message echoing the sentiments of Nelson Mandela in 1995, when South Africa won their first World Cup, Kolisi called on a still divided country to unite around rugby.

“There’s so much going wrong in our country, we are the last line of defence,” he said. “There’s so much division in the country, it is possible to work together as South Africans, not just on the rugby field, but in life in general. We can’t go away from that, 1995, without that I wouldn’t be here. For people who look like me, I’ve got a job to give whatever I can to the jersey, to show they can get opportunities like this.”

South Africa continues to suffer social segregation and economic disparity on racial grounds, and there remain many deep-rooted issues including high levels of unemployment, criminality and corruption.

“People who are not from South Africa don’t understand what this means for our country,” Kolisi said. “This is not just about the game, our country goes through such a lot. We are the very hope that they have.”

Scrum half Faf de Klerk backed his captain’s message of unity.

“Hopefully it represents unity, what teamwork can do,” he said of South Africa’s triumph. “A lot is lacking in our country. People from all races and backgrounds, supporting one goal, something we can learn in every day life. To make a better country and a better world.”

Head coach Jacques Nienaber described his side as “warriors” and said their experience proved the difference in a gruelling battle.

“I think the main thing was just the strength of the squad,” the coach said. “They’re experienced, they’ve been in a World Cup final before, some of them were playing a third World Cup. So I think the experience just pulled it through, they’re an amazing bunch of guys, all warriors.

“We’ve come a long way with these players, we’ve planned for this since 2018,” added Nienaber, who is leaving for a job in Ireland after the tournament.

It was victory by the slimmest of margins against their traditional rivals who fought back despite a numerical disadvantage.

Kolisi added: “The All Blacks took us to a dark place, it just shows what team they are, they fought, they put us under so much pressure. Credit to my boys for the fight, I’m just grateful.”