Relay team sees a Kolisi in Wayde in race to the podium  

In every high-performing team, there is a great leader who can inspire others and 400m sensation Lythe Pillay associates Olympic record holder Wayde van Niekerk to greatness – comparing his leadership qualities to that of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi. 

Pillay, 21, will be running alongside his hero in the 4x400m relay at the 2024 Paris Olympics from July 26 to August 11 in their quest to complete a podium finish in Paris this year. 

Van Niekerk, a world record holder in the 400m after winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, led by example and marshalled the SA 4x400m relay team into clinching a silver medal at the recent World Relays in the Bahamas. 

The 31-year-old might just be competing at his last Olympics and Pillay says having a highly experienced figure like Van Niekerk leading the pack will be crucial in them delivering an Olympic medal in the relay. 

“I feel like Wayde is our Siya Kolisi and its 100% important for us to have someone like him to lead us at the Olympics,” Pillay said. 

“He pretty much has led us to war and at the same time he assured us that all we had to do was best. 

“He also brought the vibe with him – we got to see a whole different side of him because we are used to seeing Wayde when we are competing against him and not when competing with him. 

“So, seeing that side of him, opening up and embracing us and just having fun together, feeding off that chemistry sets off a good tone and puts us on a good trajectory before the Olympics,” Pillay said. 

Meanwhile, Team SA will compete alongside their southern African brothers from Botswana in Paris – a team that beat them to gold in World Relays in the Bahamas. 

Pillay has since emphasised the importance of South Africa and Botswana uniting as neighbouring countries – adding that they will compete against the heavyweights at the biggest stage in athletics. 

“Botswana are our neighbours and brothers. We compete with them quite often since they usually come to SA to train and compete with us,” Pillay said. 

“For us, as much as we were gunning for gold [at the World Relays], we knew that between the two of us, we had to take gold and silver and when we see Botswana shine and we shine alongside them, it’s us showing that Southern Africa has potential. 

“And that unity sort of sends a message to the world that as much we are different countries, but as Southern Africa we are together and will be gunning for all the other big heavy hitters,” he added. 

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