Siya Kolisi admits that being named the Springboks’ first black captain affected his game.
The Stormers flanker’s appointment as skipper in June was a historic moment for South African rugby - Bok record try-scorer Bryan Habana says it’s the biggest thing to happen to the national game since winning the 1995 World Cup.
And Kolisi reveals that the hype and scrutiny were too much for him to handle initially.
The 27-year-old, who sparked a quota row last week, tells CNN: “I don’t like the spotlight. I’m very shy.
“When they announced it, it was like I’d never seen anything like that in South Africa. The people were happy and going crazy.
“So, when that happened, I think it affected me a lot with my game, because it was a lot. It was really a lot.”
The Bokke went on to win seven of their 14 Tests last year and Siya believes the team can go on and win a third world title in Japan.
He says: “The respect is back in the Springbok jersey. I think we have a possible chance of winning the World Cup.”
Meanwhile, Habana says: “To be able to have Siya Kolisi run out there as the first black South African captain of the Springboks, is something that far outweighs any instance this country - from a rugby perspective - has seen since possibly Nelson Mandela walking out there in that same No 6 Springbok jersey.
“I think under his guidance and through his story this current crop of Springbok players knows that, yes, they’re Springboks, but they’re now a symbol of hope to this country.”