Inspirational Springboks captain Siya Kolisi has opened up his battle with alcohol between the last two World Cups.
Kolisi has just released an official biography of his rise out of poverty to lead the South Africa national rugby team to their third World Cup win in Japan in 2019.
But four years earlier, it was a different story, as he got little playing time on the team at the 2015 World Cup in England – he only played two group matches from the bench – and he battled his demons.
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In an interview with The Guardian, he was asked if his drinking problems were a way to escape his painful past?
‘Of course. I drank when I was happy or sad, or doing something. Drinking was the only way I knew to get through this mess.’
In his book, Kolisi explained that it was not until early 2019 that his wife Rachel persuaded him to seek a Christian mentor.
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That man, Ben Schoeman, did not hold back in his advice to Kolisi.
“Siya, you drink a lot, you hang out with women, you go to strip clubs. You post on social media about your faith in Christ, but you lie to yourself and everyone else,” he said.
Kolisi found it difficult but therapeutic.
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“I started opening up to him and we talked deeply. He told me to stop drinking. It was hard at the beginning, but now I don’t miss it,” he told The Guardian.
“I want to encourage people that it’s okay to get help. Too many people commit suicide out of desperation because they’re too proud to talk to anyone else. I want to encourage men to talk because they don’t talk to each other. Men open up “Don’t or don’t want to cry. Men always want to look strong. But that’s not what life is about. You can’t carry all that weight because it can break you.”
He was also determined to use his profile to help in other areas and, along with his wife, decided to highlight gender violence in public as his main concern.
It was born of his upbringing when he witnessed the abuse his mother received.
Kolisi said he remembers looking at pictures of his mother when she was young — before she gave birth to him at age 18.
“She was beautiful and most importantly unscarred. I’ve never seen her look like this because her face changed so much with the different men who beat her up…when she died she had scars all over her face.”
Kolisi told The Guardian his sporting dream is to see him and his Spring boxing match Richie McCaw and the All Blacks defending the 2023 World Cup in France.
New Zealand won their second World Cup in 2011, becoming the first team to retain it four years later.
Kolisi felt that last Saturday’s poignant 31-29 win over the All Blacks in Queensland was an indication of their potential.
“I have always believed in the group and I really believe it is possible. But we still have a lot to make up for and then we go to Europe in November.”
– This article originally appeared on stuff.co.nz and is reproduced with permission