The 26-year-old Stormers back row was named captain for the upcoming Test series against England yesterday, while Pieter-Steph du Toit will lead a truncated squad to meet Wales for a Test match in Washington this weekend.
The significance of appointing a first black captain for South Africa, 25 years after apartheid, was not lost on Erasmus, but the former Munster director of rugby insists race was not the deciding factor in offering Kolisi the honour.
“I wouldn’t like to look at it that way. I know Siya is a good leader and I am excited about what he can offer us‚” Erasmus said, “I coached him since he was 18 years old when he arrived at the Stormers from the Eastern Cape and through the academy until he played for the Stormers.
“I know him as a good rugby player. This year he has gone through some tough times with form as captain of the Stormers but he is a great leader.
“I like him because he is humble‚ he is quiet and the way he is playing at the moment he is not flashy.
“With the breakdown work he is doing in attack‚ the carries and clean-outs‚ he is playing almost like a blindside flanker.”
While it appears likely that Warren Whitely or Eben Etzebeth will return to captaincy duties when they regain fitness, the appointment of Kolisi is a landmark moment for Springbok rugby, coming 12 years after Chiliboy Ralepelle captained a South African side against a World XV in a non-Test match in 2006.
“Before I was appointed‚” says Erasmus, “I have always understood all the transformation issues and that they are part of the way we are heading and I have bought into that.
“We are trying to fix all the wrong things that we did in the past. The recent things that happened did not have a bearing on this decision because my contract was signed long before that. The players we have in this squad deserve to be here and I am not trying to fabricate things.”