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Siya Kolisi brings Webb Ellis Cup home to proud Zwide residents

The narrow streets of the Zwide township are filled with children and adults alike, who can be seen waving and running alongside the open-top tour bus.

Springbok Captain Siya Kolisi lifts the Webb Ellis Cup for PE fans to see on Sunday, 10 November 2019. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

PORT ELIZABETH – The Springbok Rugby World Cup tour bus has on Sunday afternoon reached Siya Kolisi’s hometown of Zwide in the Eastern Cape.

Earlier, the parade passed through Port Elizabeth’s City Hall and New Brighton.

Springbok captain Kolisi rouses fans every time he lifts the trophy in his hometown.

The narrow streets of the Zwide township are filled with children and adults alike, who can be seen waving and running alongside the open-top tour bus.

During a press conference, earlier on Suday, Kolisi spoke about meeting old friends.

"It's good to see them. I saw my cousin who is still at home yesterday, it was just good to catch up. I saw a lot of my friends that I grew up with."

Among those who greeted Kolisi and his victorious teammates Sunday on a wet, windy day under a slate grey sky was Eric Songwiqi, a schoolteacher and first coach of the would-be Springbok.

"Siya handled a rugby ball for the first time on a gravel sports field at Emsengeni primary school in Zwide township," he told AFP.

"The boys would hurriedly eat their food during the school break, then ask me for the rugby ball so that they could play.

"I recall Siya being a small boy with thin legs, but strong. He oozed passion whenever he had the ball.

"I saw this diligent, well-mannered and disciplined boy with great passion and enthusiasm for rugby and I knew he would go far.

"I am not surprised that he captains the Springboks. I could see leadership qualities in him even at the tender age of 12. He was focused."

Songwiqi said Kolisi, born to teenage parents in June 1991, loved rugby more than his school books.

"You could see the zeal and hunger even though it was on a rough, hard, gravel pitch," said the coach.

'I PLAYED A PART'

"I feel great that my product is doing well and the moment he lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy, I felt that I had played a part in the win."

Kolisi was spotted at a tournament when only 12 and won a scholarship to an elite Port Elizabeth school, where his rugby skills were honed.

After representing South Africa at under-20 level, he joined Cape Town-based Super Rugby team the Stormers and made his Springbok debut six years ago against Scotland in Nelspruit.

Last year, coach Rassie Erasmus took over a Springbok squad that had become an embarrassment, especially following a first loss to European rugby minnows Italy.

Among his first decisions was to make loose forward Kolisi the first black Test captain of the Springboks after 60 whites had skippered a team that excluded black players for 90 years.

The gamble appeared to have backfired when visiting England raced to a 21-point lead in Johannesburg in the first match of a three-Test series.

But Kolisi and his teammates did not panic, clawed back into contention with a string of tries and won a thriller 42-39.

South Africa won seven internationals and lost seven in 2018, but the groundwork had been laid for a dramatic improvement this year.

An ultimately convincing victory over pre-match favourites England in the World Cup final was the 10th in 12 matches this season.

Travelling to Port Elizabeth also marked a homecoming for Erasmus, who turned 47 this week. He was born in Despatch, a motor manufacturing town 30 kilometres northwest of Port Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, loose forward Francois Louw has become the second member of the Springbok squad to officially announce his retirement, after legendary prop Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira.

Known as 'Flo', the 34-year-old based in England was capped 76 times and came off the bench in the final.

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