(Reuters) - Given Siya Kolisi’s brilliant June series against France and three tries in two tests against Argentina last month, the Wallabies will have to keep a keen eye on the Springboks flanker in Perth on Saturday.
As hard in the tackle as he is on the ball at the breakdown and with pace and power to spare in the loose, Kolisi has all the attributes to become a world class back-row forward, if he is not there already.
Having only got his first test start during South Africa’s miserable 2016 campaign, however, the 26-year-old is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“I can always get better,” the 21-cap flanker told Pretoria News after his Man of the Match display in the 41-23 victory over the Pumas in Salta two weeks ago.
“I’m looking for improvement every week and I’m never satisfied with my performance.
“I want to play well and make sure that I put my firm hand on the jersey because I haven’t played a lot in a starting position so I am trying to use that as best as I can.”
Kolisi has been at the heart of the transformation of the Springboks under coach Allister Coetzee this season, starting all five of the test victories that have got their year off to such an encouraging start.
Handed the captaincy at the Stormers in Super Rugby this season, his influence is such that former Springboks assistant coach Gary Gold believes he should have taken the armband from the injured Warren Whiteley for the Rugby Championship.
The younger but more experienced Stormers vice captain Eben Etzebeth got the nod, however, and it is a decision that sits well with Kolisi.
“I’m a servant, that’s the kind of leader I am,” he added. “I’m a good servant, I’m a good follower. And I can follow anyone who is leading and I think that is my calling and my role at the moment.
“Tough times are going to come and I want to be there for whoever is leading the team.”
Born in grinding poverty in the Zwide township outside Port Elizabeth, Kolisi’s background is a world away from that of some of his team mates.
His articulation of the culture that has been fostered at the Springboks this season, however, suggests that it might not be too long before he becomes the first black player to be named Springboks captain on a permanent basis.
“We started our own culture this year that we can live by and that is what we are driving,” Kolisi explained.
“There are no rules, just the culture and values that we live by and we want the best for the Springbok team and one another.
“We want to break these cultural barriers and we want to be one. We are all different at the end of the day and what we want to do is to bring our best to the table. We can’t all be the same but we can have the same goal and vision.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Greg Stutchbury