Kolisi steps up to fill Schalk's big boots
Misfortune for a teammate gave Siya Kolisi his shot in Super rugby at the weekend, and the 20-year-old Stormers flank took the opportunity with panache.
Kolisi, who entered the fray midway through the first half of the Stormers' 39-26 win over the Hurricanes after skipper Schalk Burger was carried off the field, was spectacular in his first hour of rugby at this level.
Burger, a decorated Springbok who boasts just about every accolade in the game, should be irreplaceable. But Kolisi demonstrated that in the cutthroat world of Super 15, where injuries fell players weekly, there is always someone capable of doing the job if given the chance.
Kolisi, from Zwide in Port Elizabeth, will have an extended run in the side after an initial diagnosis confirmed that Burger will miss the next four to six weeks of the campaign.
Coaches from all teams have spent the pre-season stating how important squad depth would be in a game that is as about as tender on the human body as a head-on car crash at 60km/h. There will be casualties all season.
Though there is sympathy for Burger, misfortune robbed Kolisi of his chance to make his Super rugby debut in last year's semifinal against the Crusaders at Newlands. And his injuries were not sustained on the rugby field.
A mugging incident on the Sunday before the match left the youngster with lacerations and concussion. He was not badly injured, but mentally he was damaged and in no condition to play in the Stormers' biggest game of the year.
Showing great strength of character, Kolisi bounced back during last year's Currie Cup campaign and was one of the stand-out performers for Western Province in the competition.
It helped that Burger was with the Springboks and regular Stormers backrowers Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen were out of the mix through a transfer and injury respectively.
But Kolisi did not squander the chances he earned and made such an impact in his first few matches that when he suffered a small injury during the Currie Cup, it was seen as a massive blow by the WP management.