Zwide lad Kolisi goes home to coach kids

GIVING BACK: Siya Kolisi, right, and Juan de Jongh coach the Emsengeni Primary School rugby team during the launch of Land Rover’s Hope Crosses Any Terrain: Rugby Goes Rural campaign Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
GIVING BACK: Siya Kolisi, right, and Juan de Jongh coach the Emsengeni Primary School rugby team during the launch of Land Rover’s Hope Crosses Any Terrain: Rugby Goes Rural campaign

Springbok wants old school to play at the highest level

Zwide-born rugby superstar Siya Kolisi says one of his biggest dreams is to improve sporting facilities in Port Elizabeth’s townships.

Speaking at the launch of the event Land Rover’s Hope Crosses Any Terrain: Rugby Goes Rural, at his old school, Emsengeni Primary in Zwide, Kolisi said this would afford township pupils the opportunity of competing against the best schools in Port Elizabeth.

As he walked the school fields, chatting with pupils having a mini training session, memories rushed back to Kolisi.

He recalled playing on that same rocky playing surface at break times many years ago.

The Stormers and Springbok flanker said: “My dream has always been to try to get a proper field for the school.

“The school is too small to have a proper playing field.

“So I would like to have someone to help fix Dan Qeqe, because the stadium is where I [played] rugby for the first time.

“The grass was green and we had proper age group tournaments from the age of nine.

“So I think [the stadium is] becoming a waste now.

“It just needs someone to sharpen it up – there is a tennis court there, a basketball court and a cricket field.

“There are four rugby fields.

“It’s a beautiful stadium – it just needs to be fixed and looked after.

“That’s the one thing I’ve always wanted to do.”

Kolisi believes township schools deserve proper sporting facilities and also deserve to compete against schools like Grey Junior and Grey High, to get proper competition.

“They can’t do that because they don’t have equipment first of all, and they don’t have the right fields.

“That is why fixing fields like Dan Qeqe would make such a difference.

“That is one thing I will never stop trying to do, [getting] people to try to fix those fields,” he said.

The former African Bombers player said a great contributor to his career from the start was retired Emsengeni principal and rugby coach Mkhuseli Songwiqi.

Kolisi, 25, said he regarded Songwiqi as more as a parent than just a coach in his life.

Songwiqi spotted Kolisi while he was still a pupil at Intyatyambo Primary School, but soon poached him for Emsengeni.

“[Songwiqi] saw me when my school was playing Emsengeni.

“We lost 50-0 . . . I will never forget [the score].

“We were playing at Dan Qeqe and even though my side lost, he saw something in me.

“He took me to the Eastern Province trials and I then made the EP team.

“We didn’t have money back home, but the coach took us to training. When there was money to be paid, he would pay for me. “He was like a parent to me.” Though he might not be his coach now, Songwiqi said he still asked Kolisi to tell him where he had gone wrong in a particular match and where he needed to improve.

Sonqwiqi said: “We still have a good relationship. I advise him not only about rugby, but also on things outside the field.

Kolisi said: “Just like coach, I also want to help children in need.

“Whether or not you are playing sport, as long as you are focused you have a purpose and are driven.

“I am trying to work on deals with schools to see if they can give me a discount on fees.

“That way disadvantaged pupils can have the best education.

“My dream is for the township schools to be on the same level as your Model C schools.”

Jaguar Land Rover SA sponsorship manager Tina PienaarSmit said the Rugby Goes Rural event was an ongoing programme focusing specifically on the brand’s ambassadors.

“This is the type of thing we want to be involved with, with our Land Rover ambassadors.

“It is so special to bring Siya back to the school where it all started for him.

“I think we should do more activations like these.

“People think it is always helpful to give money, but sometimes it is just better to give your time to the kids and teach them about rugby and what they can achieve through it,” she said.

Kolisi also donated rugby kit to the school, with his name on the back of every T-shirt.

Emsengeni Grade 6 pupil Siyabonga Mahlakahlaka, 11, said: “I am very happy to have a kit with Siya’s name at the back because he is my role model.

“The rugby kits will also motivate us to want reach his level in rugby one day.”

School principal Luyanda Nyoka said Kolisi was a rare gift.

It was hard to find someone who did not forget where he came from.

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