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The Real Rachel…

Married to one of the most famous sportsmen in the country, Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi’s wife Rachel is undoubtedly one of the most down-to-earth and authentic people you’ll meet. The Kolisi’s will soon be moving to the North Coast and we caught up with Rachel while she was here recently setting up home.

A businesswoman and mother of four, 31-year-old Rachel is a very busy lady. Yet, through her transition from being a small-town Eastern Cape farm girl to living life in the spotlight as Siya’s wife, she manages the ebb and flow of her life with honesty, humility and a little bit of humour!

ON YOUR BACKGROUND AND CHILDHOOD …
“I grew up in the small town of Grahamstown and always dreamed of being a farmer or a farmer’s wife. I loved horses and the outdoors and was definitely rebellious in my teenage years, giving my parents lots of headaches! I was never an academic and actually struggled a lot at school, but I loved and excelled in sport. One of five kids, there weren’t resources available to us to go to university after school so I worked any and all jobs, just to pay the bills. The experience honestly taught me so much about life and people though, from handing out flyers from 5am to 7am to working as a waitress at two different restaurants and doing promotions, babysitting and house sitting. I now know what it feels like to be ignored when you’re standing at a robot and shouted at when food is cold. It was extremely character building. Throughout my life I have met highly successful people who didn’t go to university. I thought if they could do it, then so could I. When I started working as a receptionist in a network marketing company and was promoted to office manager (the youngest in the company), I felt my career was ready to take off. Siya and I fell pregnant with Nic though and my career took a bit of a back seat.”

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ON HOW MOTHERHOOD HAS CHANGED YOUR LIFE …
“We definitely weren’t expecting to fall pregnant! I was told I couldn’t have kids, so Nic is a miracle baby if ever there was one. It was a challenging time and a hard adjustment having my freedom and independence taken away almost overnight. Everything happened very fast. Siya’s brother Liyemo (who was 12) and sister Liphelo (who was 6) came to live with us when Nic was just three months old. Nic was premature and spent a month in ICU and then I fell quite ill afterwards. The whole experience was overwhelming because everything was so accelerated. When Siya went away on his first tour for a month and I had the three kids alone I realised I couldn’t do it all and decided to give up my job. I didn’t have postpartum depression, but I felt very frustrated and almost went into ‘robot mode’. I remember saying to the doctor, okay, just tell me what I need to do to keep this baby alive!? The kids are now aged 18, 12, 6 and 4 years old.”

ON YOUR MARRIAGE AND RELATIONSHIP WITH SIYA …
“To be honest, it took us a while to find our rhythm and get to where we are now. We had a lot of change in our relationship really fast and we struggled to find what worked for us. Things have improved a lot over the past few years though, especially now through Covid. We’ve discovered a new lease on life and are so grateful for the time that we have together. We are working hard at being as intentional as possible when we are together and are learning to relax and enjoy life and laugh more. I think we have realised we don’t always have to be serious – although those serious conversations are necessary sometimes (and thank the Lord for therapy!). Siya mentioned the other day that he would like to live on a farm one day … so my farm life dream still might come true, haha!”

ON YOUR HEALTH AND FITNESS JOURNEY …
“I’ve always loved being fit and healthy, but it really has been an up-and-down, ever-fluctuating part of my life … and I used to feel very self-conscious about that. You know, you post a photograph of yourself with abs and then a few months later you don’t look like that anymore and then you feel shameful about that. I have realised, though, that if I feel this way, there are other women who feel this way too. Although I had a bad experience with a business partner who didn’t share my vision in my previous business, I have some amazing plans and ideas in place for this space. I want to address the realness of what we face as women and facilitate open, honest conversations around it. I’m especially passionate about helping young girls who are growing up with so much pressure and with social media so much a part of their lives.”

ON THE KOLISI FOUNDATION …
“This is probably the thing I love talking about the most. Siya and I started the Kolisi Foundation in April last year during the first Covid lockdown and it has been a phenomenal journey. We now have a wonderful team and, even if we aren’t able to be there and hands-on, there is still incredible work going on all the time. It’s not an ‘immediate relief’ foundation (although that is how we started, sourcing food and PPE last year and we also helped out with food relief during the recent riots), but it is about working on big, sustainable projects that can make a difference for years to come. Our focus is on partnering with organisations that are already on the ground working in the areas of food security, gender-based violence, education and sports development.”

ON MOVING AND STARTING A NEW LIFE ON THE NORTH COAST …
“I’m not big on change, so I actually struggled with this a lot in the beginning. The kids and I are moving here in December, but I have been able to come down a few times already to set up our home. I can honestly say I have never felt more welcome anywhere in my life. I have been completely overwhelmed by how friendly and kind people are here. And it’s not just because it’s us, it’s because they are just good people. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by such open, kind people and it has made me so excited to live here. We have some friends here from the Springboks, like Kuziva and Tendai Mtwarira and JP and Megan Pietersen, and we’ve made other friends already too. The kids are also very excited. We are slowly familiarising ourselves with the area and I have already discovered some amazing, local businesses that I can’t wait to support and connect with. Also, how wonderful is this winter weather!? ”
Details: @rachel_kolisi, @kolisi_foundation

Text: LEAH SHONE | Photographs: Chris Allan | Hair and makeup: Volenti Laurentina | Dress: Bianca Warren

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