Kolisi the back row chameleon

Tue, 03 Dec 2013 09:00
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Whilst Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer may see his future at openside flank, Siya Kolisi does not mind which position he is asked to play.
 

Whilst Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer may see his future at openside flank, Siya Kolisi does not mind which position he is asked to play.

Having started his career as a blindside flank, Kolisi's big break came at the start of 2012 when Stormers skipper Schalk Burger was injured in the first Super Rugby match of the season.

Although he had limited experience of playing as an openside, he impressed with his high work rate and commitment on defence which was well suited to the Stormers' approach of loading the defensive line without contesting the breakdown very often.

Since then he has played on both sides of the scrum as required, and is not bothered about the number he wears on his back, as long as he gets on the pitch.

He told this website: "I will play where I am needed, if the Stormers need me at flank I will play at flank and if they need me at eighthman I will play there.

"I don't really want to set myself in one position, I have played all three positions so I will play anywhere they want me to," he said.

Defined roles in the loose trio are not as important as in the backline or tight five, which means that versatility is more of a blessing than a curse, with the key rather ensuring that the entire trio has a good balance.

Burger is a good example of a player that has had success in both flank positions, whereas the label of 'utility player' has had more of a negative impact on the careers of Frans Steyn, Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie.

At 98 kg and 1.88 metres Kolisi does not quite fit the bill of Meyer's ideal blindside bruiser, and the Bok coach has been candid about the fact that he would like him to develop his breakdown skills further and focus on playing at openside.

However, with breakdown specialists such as Deon Fourie and Duane Vermeulen at the Stormers Kolisi knows that he may not get the opportunity to so next season, despite working hard on that area of his game with Bok breakdown coach Richie Gray.

"It is all about decision making, it is not easy to change from seven flanker to six flanker, it is quite hard but I am working on it.

"Obviously we have a lot of ball stealers at Western Province so they probably won't need me to be there so I will have to adapt to the number seven position which I don't have a problem with," he said.

He explained that the competition for places in the Stormers loose trio is something that he embraces as he is constantly being challenged to raise his game.

"You can't settle, that is the best thing about the Stormers team, there are so many good players so you can't think you are going to play the next game, you have to be on top form every weekend.

"That is why I am enjoying it here, because you always have to be at your best and you are always challenged to go out of your comfort zone," he said.

By Michael de Vries

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Stormers 9 3 0 6 14