For the next month and a half, the best rugby players in the world will showcase their skills at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. It’s the first time an Asian nation has hosted the event, which began in 1987. The opening match pitted Japan against Russia on Friday, with the host country prevailing, 30-10.
There are 20 nations participating in the worldwide competition. Yet over the next few weeks, many eyes will be on the traditional powers, including South Africa (champions in 1995 and 2007) and its captain, Siyamthanda “Siya” Kolisi.
Before the World Cup, SportGoMag released a first-person story from Kolisi detailing his rugby career.
Kolisi, 28, explained that his love for rugby often provided an escape from the struggles and temptations he faced growing up in the impoverished township of Zwide, South Africa, near Port Elizabeth.
He remembered countless days with only one meal and countless nights spent sleeping on the floor. Despite all the adversity, his rugby talent shined through. It was obvious — Kolisi was always meant to play rugby. His relatives had played, and everyone around him saw that he could too.
“When I was 19, I became a professional,” Kolisi said in the story. “In 2012, on the same weekend of my 21st birthday, I played my first game with the South African national team.”
Kolisi only logged 30 minutes of action in two games with South Africa at the 2015 World Cup in England. Undeterred, Kolisi continued to hone his skills and impress his teammates and coaches. Then, in May 2018, Kolisi was rewarded in a big way. He was appointed captain of the South African national team, the team’s first black captain since its inception in 1891.
Kolisi has his team positioned well for a deep World Cup run. The Springboks are ranked fourth in the world and won the 2019 Rugby Championship earlier this summer, a competition with Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
Yet Kolisi’s entry on SportGoMag focused on more than simply his career as a professional rugby player. It also described his growing relationship with Christ, especially in the midst of trials.
In March of this year, Kolisi sparked controversy when his wife found a risque photo of another woman in his Instagram direct messages. Over the next few months, the messy saga played out in public view. Kolisi has learned a lot, including what it means to truly follow Jesus.
“While struggling with a lot of things personally — temptations, sins and lifestyle choices — I realized I wasn’t living according to what I was calling myself: a follower of Christ. I was getting by, but I hadn’t decided to fully commit myself to Jesus Christ and start living according to His way,” Kolisi said.
“Walking alongside a spiritual mentor,” Kolisi continued, “I’ve been able to discover the truth and saving power of Christ in a whole new way. This new life has given me a peace in my heart I’d never experienced before.”
Philippians 4:13 : “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” 🙏 Have a great weekend guys 🙌 pic.twitter.com/Fb1vHCQ2Lz
— siyakolisi (@siyakolisi1) October 13, 2018
“I don’t have to understand everything in life, and there are so many things I don’t,” Kolisi added, “but I know God is in control of it all. My job is to do the best I can and leave the rest in His hands.”
Kolisi and his South African teammates open the 2019 World Cup with a match against New Zealand in Pool B play on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. local time, 5:45 a.m. ET. New Zealand is ranked second in the world and has won the past two World Cups in 2011 and 2015.
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