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Rise, by Siya Kolisi and Boris Starling | Lisa Miles-Gomes

During the loadshedding on Saturday 12 Nov 2022, I was desperately trying to watch the SA vs. France rugby game. We were 3 extremely frustrated ladies trying to log into the DSTV app to try to watch the game. It did not help that my husband was sending us pictures from the stadium where the game was being played. (Yes, he is blessed that way). I then realised how many women in the world are passionate about the game, and that this may be quite a relevant book to write a review of.

I have always followed Siya and Rachel Kolisi’s story, as they have been such an inspirational couple to me. A lady who worked with me was at a bachelorette which Rachel organised and I was told she is the most down to earth, unpretentious and warm lady, no matter who you are. Just then, I decided that my feelings about this couple cannot be wrong.

The last story before my actual review: I was at someone’s home one day where we were watching a Springbok game during the biggest uprising about Black Lives Matter. During this game, a commentator mentioned how great the story of Siya is. One of the guests then said that she could not understand why people called him previously disadvantaged, as he had a golden spoon in his mouth and was schooled at Grey’s College. I was extremely glad that I had read Siya’s book and understood his journey. Being the person I am, I had to take a few minutes to educate a few people around me.

Book Review: Rise, by Siya Kolisi & Boris Starling reviewed by Lisa Miles-Gomes

This book is an easy read and feels more like a work of fiction than an autobiography. It begins in Yokohama, Japan, on 2 November 2019, where President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the Springboks: “You are at the moment of destiny; for yourselves and for our country. Play the best game you have ever played.” Siya is a Christian who lives his faith. He is not “religious”, he loves Jesus and he and his family live that example as far as fallable people can do. At that moment, he turned to the wall and thanked God for his talent, the opportunities he received and not for a win, but that they can make their country proud.

Siya was born on the last day of apartheid, 16th June,1991, raised in a township called Zwide, just outside Port Elizabeth. His home had 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and living room and 7 occupants. When the rains came, it seeped into their rooms and the roof leaked constantly. Siya slept on cushions on the floor and was often disturbed by rats scurrying around and over him. No golden spoon there.

Siya was raised by his grandmother, as his father mostly worked away from home – an arrangement common to Zwide and the Eastern Cape. When his grandmother lost her job, Siya sold alcohol and vegetables on the street and sometimes resorted to making bricks to help his Gran. Thanks to her, he was raised with solid values and went to church every Sunday. As she grew older, the money became less, and Siya became accustomed to the growls of a hungry stomach. Even so, when his Gran became bedridden, Siya washed, fed and sat with her, having to give up school for a while.

This young man loved sport, but played it on ground and stones, but his Coach, Eric, believed in him. He was in grade 6 when he travelled outside of Zwide for the first time, to Mossel Bay. On that bus they travelled with boys from a white school, and he met Nick Holton and became good friends with him, even though they could not understand each other’s languages. Nick was at Grey’s PE, but was not snobbish, as Siya described most of the boys. During that specific tournament, Siya was noticed by a teacher from Grey’s who wanted Siya and 2 of his friends to join the school.

Can you imagine being given a scholarship to such a prestigious school, but not understanding a word of the languages spoken there? It was a tough journey even though there were 2 or 3 boys who took to Siya and his friends and decided to help them to learn English and to learn the ropes at Grey. These were difficult circumstances for the boys, but not one of them wanted to give it up for something as “small as an unknown educational language”.

Siya goes on describing how he grew as a player and an individual, but becoming quite an arrogant young man, as the boys were built up, but never taught how to handle fame, which I personally think is an international problem amongst youngsters becoming stars. During this phase of his life he met Rachel, who didn’t seem very interested in his arrogance. She set him an ultimatum in terms of character, values and behaviour and he rose to her standards. He became the man she had dreamt of.

While they were building their future, Siya found out he had 2 siblings from his Dad’s other marriage who were floating between orphanages, and foster homes. When he told Rachel about it, she immediately said that they needed to find the 2 children and give them a proper home.

Now Rachel has 4 children to raise. Her husband’s 2 siblings and her own 2 small children. She mentioned that it was tough, as she had to raise soon- to- be- teenagers before she had babies, but that as a couple they knew this was the right thing to do and they always relied on the wisdom of God.

That was the start of their philanthropic journey. They wanted to make a difference in SA and on a date night decided that gender-based violence would be their cause, as it had affected Siya first hand. They have subsequently established the Kolisi foundation, which assisted in feeding schemes during Covid when many breadwinners lost their jobs and couldn’t feed their families.

This book is inspiring, educational and most of all leaves you with rising respect for this young couple. After dedicating this book to Rachel, Siya ends it with his core values:

1 Spend time with God

2. His marriage

3. Fatherhood

4. Community

5. Impacting people

And just when you think the book is finished, Siya shares his life mission and 5-7 year goals. I will leave you to buy the book and read the intricacies for yourself. His rise as a Stormer, a Springbok, and many little stories in between.

You will never really know our Springbok captain until reading this book, let alone understand his quiet leadership style and way with people. I highly recommend this book if you are a South African rugby fan (even if you are not), it will inspire you and make you look at yourself asking: How am I making a difference in our country? reviews stated: ‘Few people embody the tenacity of what the New South Africa stands for, like Siya does.

You can currently buy this book for R199 at Reader’s warehouse.

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