Rugby Championship

Siya Kolisi on how his drinking habit almost cost him his family

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Siya Kolisi (Getty Images)
Siya Kolisi (Getty Images)

In his soon-be-released autobiography, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi has recalled his battle with alcohol and how it almost cost him his family.

In the book, Rise, Kolisi details his successes in rugby and life, his tough upbringing in the township near Gqeberha, as well as his battle with substance abuse.

READ | Siya Kolisi recalls smoking weed, sniffing petrol with wrong crowd in new book: 'Rugby saved me'

Kolisi made his Springbok debut in 2013 and became the country's first black captain in 2018.

Under his leadership, the Boks won the 2019 Rugby World Cup and also beat the British & Irish Lions 2-1 in a series this year.

However, his time with the Springboks' hadn't always been rosy and in the book he recalls the shame of how he conducted himself around the period of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Kolisi wasn't a regular starter in the Bok team for that World Cup in England and he now looks back embarrassed at the way he acted.

"Whenever I had time off, I just drank. I was bored and feeling sorry for myself, there were other guys around in the same boat who were always happy to hang out, and it was all too easy for me to hit the bars and pubs and be a good-time guy," he wrote in an extract published by the Sunday Times.

"Rachel [my wife] had come out with baby Nick, and this would have been the perfect opportunity to spend some time with them; but no, I preferred to be out with the boys. It was an awful time for her, and I was too selfish to realise. In the end Rachel got fed up with me being a jerk and flew home a week early."

Kolisi recalled an incident back home that helped him realise he needed to change his behaviour.

"A few weeks after the World Cup had ended and we were back home, I was lying on the grass on a Sunday morning, as hungover as it's possible to imagine. My eyes were bloodshot and I stank of alcohol. 'This is how you look when you’ve been bad,' Liphelo, the sister whom I had adopted, said. She was six at the time, the perfect age for a child to tell you a home truth without even realising that they're doing so.

"Rachel had had enough. If it had been an isolated incident that would have been one thing, but it wasn't. It could have been the week before, or the week before that, or the week before that. 'We're going to church,' she said. She always went to church on Sunday. 'See you later,' I grunted. 'We,' she said. 'We're going to church. That means you too.' She was right, and I knew it. The trajectory of my life was bad. I had to stop behaving like this or else I'd lose my family. It wasn't 'stop drinking', because drinking would have been fine if I'd just had a couple of beers and stopped there. It was 'stop drinking until you're obliterated, each and every time'. Because that's what I was. Whenever I opened a drink it was as though there was a message at the bottom of the bottle saying 'drink me, keep on going'. I'd binge and not remember what had happened the night before.

"Picking up the pieces of the story from other people was fun for a while - 'Ag! Man, you'll never believe what you did, you were so wasted' - but I'd soon begun to tire of it and think that there must be more to life than this."

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