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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Gerard Meagher

Siya Kolisi urges South Africa not to be distracted by Erasmus ‘sideshow’

Siya Kolisi prepares for South Africa’s clash against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Siya Kolisi prepares for South Africa’s clash against England at Twickenham on Saturday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Siya Kolisi has called for a resolution to be found to the Rassie Erasmus saga, the Springboks captain insisting South Africa will not use it as an excuse as they seek a first win at Twickenham in eight years.

Erasmus is banned from attending Saturday’s match after being sanctioned by World Rugby for his outbursts on social media in which he implicitly criticised the referee Wayne Barnes following South Africa’s defeat by France.

The South Africa director of rugby had only just returned from a 12-month ban for similar behaviour during the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa and the World Rugby chief executive, Alan Gilpin, has recently suggested that Erasmus’ conduct was negatively impacting on the wider game. Erasmus has also been criticised by South Africa’s World Cup winning captain, John Smit, who said that he is making the Springboks easy to dislike and Kolisi wants a solution that benefits the sport.

“We are learning and hopefully something is reached where both parties are happy going forward and it gets resolved,” said Kolisi. “It is good for rugby to have that kind of stuff resolved. We are all part of the rugby family and families do fight, don’t see eye to eye at times, and the most important thing is we can all invest in rugby and resolve it together and be stronger than it was before.

“We can all use difficult periods and adversity for good sometimes and hopefully something great comes out of this and there is a solution between coaches and directors. I hope something more positive comes out of it because it is not good for rugby in general.”

Rassie Erasmus looks on during a South Africa training session.
Rassie Erasmus looks on during a South Africa training session but will not be able to attend the match against England at Twickenham as he serves a suspension. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Kolisi dismissed the suggestion that Erasmus’ outbursts have strengthened South Africa’s siege mentality as they strive to avenge last year’s narrow defeat at Twickenham. He added: “We don’t think the world is against us. We are not the only team that has faced these challenges, every single team has done, it is just different. Our slogan is let the main thing stay the main thing and the main thing is rugby. Everything else that happens is a sideshow, no one is more important than the team. People expect us to beat England and we can’t be making excuses. If we did, we wouldn’t be welcome home.”

England have made four changes for Saturday’s encounter including two in the front-row with Mako Vunipola and Jamie George starting while Ellis Genge and Luke Cowan-Dickie wait in the wings as part of England’s answer to South Africa’s bomb squad.

“People had a problem with the bomb squad and now everyone’s doing it,” said Kolisi. “It’s funny how the world works. It works, that’s the thing. I just laugh. People had a lot to say when we did and now it’s becoming fashion. Everyone’s doing it.”

Meanwhile, Manu Tuilagi will win his 50th cap for England, 13 years after first introducing himself to the Springboks. A teenage Tuilagi caught the eye for Leicester in a 22-17 win against South Africa, a performance all the more impressive because he was on the brink of being deported at the time because he had entered the UK on a holiday visa. Were it not for his well-documented injury troubles Tuilagi’s number of caps would be well into three figures by now but Richard Cockerill, currently forwards coach and Leicester’s director of rugby during the centre’s emergence, revealed how he might never have represented England.

“When I first saw him play for the first team, whenever that was against South Africa when he was bowling people over, you knew he was going to be a special talent because of what he could do at that age,” said Cockerill.

“Then I found out he didn’t have a visa and might have to go home – that was a slight issue. We had to go to the union and then we got good backing from the government and that got him where he is today.”

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