Springbok captain Siya Kolisi made his first public appearance as a Racing 92 player on Thursday.
He admitted that it felt like “the first day back at school”.
Siya Kolisi ready to learn at Racing 92
Kolisi, who led the Springboks to the 2019 and 2023 World Cups, joins the Top 14 club from the Sharks on a three-year deal.
“I’m excited,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Kolisi also revealed that he will make his debut for the club against La Rochelle in Paris on November 26.
“I started training on Tuesday and it’s exciting. It felt like the first day back at school.
“I’ve got a reputation, but it’s not my reputation that’s going to count on the pitch. I need to prove myself, learn a new language and get to grips with a new culture.
“The day I leave the club, I want people to be able to say that I gave it my all.”
Kolisi said that delivering on a promise to South Africa in 2023 was a bigger achievement than 2019’s smash and grab.
“It was amazing, way bigger than 2019,” he said.
“People expected us to win this time and were following us the whole time.
“We won this for the people at home. When we were there (in South Africa), we could see why we sacrificed 20 weeks together.
“It was great to see how the people appreciated it. It made it all worthwhile.”
No rest for the hungry
Kolisi said his new coach Stuart Lancaster wanted him to rest but he really wanted to get to know his new team-mates.
“I feel like a child,” he said. “My achievements don’t mean anything. I still have a lot to learn. I can’t wait to get out on the pitch.”
Kolisi said that former All Black Dan Carter, who had played for Racing, had recommended him to go to Paris instead of signing with a Japanese team.
“He thought it would be great, told me how great the club was,” said Kolisi.
“Being here and seeing all the players, I think the coaching staff has been amazing. When they talk about ‘family’ you really feel that.
“The French Top 14 is most famous for being the hardest competition in the world. It’s very physical. Almost every nation is a part of it. That’s what I am looking forward to.”
Bok skipper welcomed
Lancaster welcomed Kolisi’s arrival for his talent on the field and his presence off it.
“What we get with Siya is the player, the person and his experience, that’s what I am most excited about,” said Lancaster.
“He is obviously a world class player. I want to add value to his game, as a coach I want to improve him.
“As a person I think he has the highest levels of integrity. The way he conducts himself is amazing, he’s a great role model.
“And his experience will be a huge asset to Racing as we can learn from his time in South Africa and on his journey as a rugby player.
“One of the strengths of the club is the diversity within the team with players from different parts of France but also from different countries. The arrival of Siya only adds to that.”
Racing sit second on the Top 14 log and will travel to Toulon on Sunday without Kolisi.