MY BATTLE WITH BOOZE
YOU South Africa|21 October 2021
In this extract from his new memoir, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi opens up about how his drinking habits brought his relationship with his wife Rachel to a crossroads
Siya Kolisi

IT WAS 19 May 2012. We’d just beaten the Waratahs in a pretty dull Super Rugby game at Newlands, and I went to Gino’s, an Italian restaurant in Stellenbosch, with my girlfriend at the time, some of the Waratahs’ boys and the cousin of a woman named Rachel Smith.

We’d been there a while when Rachel arrived with her brother and sister. She didn’t think I was anything special: in fact, she thought I was quite rude because when they arrived I was sitting in a corner and didn’t get up or say hi to them.

Then she sat down on the other side of the table, so I didn’t really speak to her too much all evening. But there was something about her that really got to me.

It wasn’t just that she was beautiful, though she was: it was the way she carried herself, the sense that there was someone special and not like other women.

I sent her a Facebook message not long after that, and we began chatting. At first, it was just as friends; I was in a relationship at the time, even though it was on and off and not particularly serious.

I was young, still 20, and full of it. I loved rugby, I loved drinking, I loved girls. Although I liked Rachel a lot, I behaved badly.

But gradually I realized that, whoever else I was with, I always wanted to be with her. We were good for each other. She brought a lot of calmness to my crazy.

I could get caught up in this world with a lot of money and the extreme stuff that sportsmen get up to, but she’d never been about either of those.

Of all the things I loved about her, one of the biggest was the fact that she didn’t need me. There were girls who’d be all over you because you were a pro rugby player, but Rachel wasn’t one of them. She couldn’t have cared less.

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