Springbok captain Siya Kolisi admitted he was “really scared” that he might miss the Rugby World Cup after he was confirmed to lead the 33-man squad on their title defence to France earlier this week.
Kolisi injured his left knee in April and has been in intensive rehabilitation to be fit enough to take his place at the head of the team in France next month.
His selection was rapturously greeted by a live audience at Multichoice City in Johannesburg and on live television, but he admitted afterwards that he feared he might not make a third tournament.
“I was scared for this one,” admitted Kolisi.
“I had a proper surgeon who gave me confidence and my medical team at the Springboks and at the Sharks – when they helped me – were all confident.
“But I was really scared. If it wasn’t for my wife and my family and the people I had around me and the guys who have been through what I’m going through before I would really have struggled.”
With his selection confirmed the World Cup-winning captain welcomed being part of the 33.
“It’s always special to be part of the group,” he said. “It’s special because there are so many players that can be chosen in the squad and there are a couple of guys that didn’t make it who are unlucky. We have the responsibility as the guys who are chosen that we play for them too!”
In his absence, the team has had three captains – Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth and Bongi Mbonambi. Kolisi celebrated the squad depth.
“I think that’s been one of our core strengths – the leadership in the group has been really good,” said Kolisi.
“When I was made captain in 2018, Rassie and Jacques had known me since I was 18 and they probably knew that I would struggle in the beginning and that I would take time to grow into the role.
“So they built a structure around me so that I just had to worry about the way I played, the discipline and talking to the ref. That gave everybody responsibility in the group, and it has always been like that.
“To be a captain is important for the public to know, and you speak to the ref but everybody is actually a leader in the group.”
Kolisi celebrated the elevation of his long-term provincial and national teammate, Mbonambi, to the captaincy.
“To have a guy like Bongi become captain is really special,” said Kolisi.
“I was so happy for him. I think Jacques (Nienaber) said it perfectly last week, Bongi demands respect, not by asking for it just the way he carries himself, the way he trains and the standards he sets.
“Duane [Vermeulen] has done it so many times – at the last World Cup and he won the Rugby Championship that year – and Eben has also captained so it’s really good.
“We’ve all got our roles, and no one speaks over each other – we all stay in our lane – that’s really important in the group. Even the young guys, they are also leaders – nobody is above the other. If it’s a question about the kicking game for example, I can’t speak over Grant Williams no matter how many caps he has. If he has a problem and speaks up, then everyone listens and that makes it easier in the group.”
The Springboks leave for Europe on Saturday – tickets (free of charge) to the public send-off is available HERE. They are next in action against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on 19 August.
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
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Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.