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"Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."

Vince Lombardi

Rise

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Siya Kolisi, London, Harper Collins, 2021. ISBN 978000843133-4

Siya Kolisi was a black boy growing up in a township when he was chosen for a scholarship to the prestigious Grey High School as a boarder. From there he went on to get a contract as a professional rugby player and ultimately to become the first black Springbok captain – and a World Cup winning captain at that.

He does not sugarcoat his early life: “hunger was a big part of my childhood”, also describing an incident when vigilantes held a gun to his head accusing him of a crime. He describes his first experience at Grey: “Even the most basic things were new to me. I had a bed for the first time. I had locker for the first time. I wore socks for the first time”. He describes honestly the challenge of living in two worlds – the comfortable boarding school in term time but returning to the township in the school holidays.

Partly through the school his personal Christian faith began to develop but the process was not linear. Alongside the posts on social media about faith in Christ, he was regularly getting drunk “fooling around with women” and going to strip clubs. He describes his Christian commitment as: “like playing touch once a week and calling myself a rugby player”.

In his words, he came the point where he: “decided to fully commit myself to Jesus Christ and start living according to His way…everything I was fighting against was hidden, but when my sin was exposed, I knew I either had to change my life or lose everything. I decided to lose my life and find it in Christ”.

For the English reader his account of how South Africa unexpectedly won the 2019 World Cup is interesting if a little painful. Similarly, his account of the 2021 Lions tour is from a different perspective from what when one reads in UK newspapers.

As his fame and status grow he becomes more aware of how he has opportunities to make a difference in his homeland.

A very readable book from several different perspectives.



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