Meeting Siya Kolisi was amazing and inspirational – Edinburgh’s Ben Muncaster on rubbing shoulders with South Africa’s World Cup-winning captain

It’s less than a year since Ben Muncaster made his debut for Edinburgh but the young back-rower has progressed at such a rate that he is now able to say he shared a pitch with Siya Kolisi and came out on top against South Africa’s World Cup-winning captain.

Muncaster has been in outstanding form in recent weeks - “a real power athlete” says his coach, Mike Blair - and has started against Leinster, Munster, Connacht, Glasgow, Sharks and Lions.

There have been plenty of memorable moments along the way but the game that stands out is the one in Durban against Sharks as Edinburgh became the first team from the southern hemisphere to win a United Rugby Championship match in South Africa.

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The victory in monsoon conditions at Kings Park Stadium was extra special for Muncaster who has long admired Kolisi, the Sharks flanker and the first black man to captain the Springboks.

Ben Muncaster, right, got to chat to Siya Kolisi after Edinburgh's stunning win over Sharks. Picture: Joe Paolella

“After the game I was chewing his ear off,” laughed Muncaster, who managed to get his picture taken with Kolisi at full-time.

“He’s amazing, such an inspirational man. He came across really well, he’s such a cool man. It’s amazing to see what he’s done in the world and how much of an impact he’s had on the sport of rugby and to inspire others.

“It was very cool playing against the Sharks but it was disgusting UK-esque weather!

“They were so physical - I’ve never played a team as physical as that. After about 30 minutes I got smashed. I tried to tackle the South African loosehead prop and he just bulldozed me, but I think I got him half back a couple of minutes later because I was a bit angry but it was an amazing experience.”

Ben Muncaster with his Scottish Building Society Player of the Month award for March. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

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The 20-year-old from North Berwick has packed a lot into his short time in the Edinburgh side and was a worthy recipient this week of the club’s player of the month award for March. The honour is sponsored by the club’s main partner, Scottish Building Society, who donated £500 to Muncaster’s charity of choice, the Christian Hobbs Gym, which is aiming to raise funds to build a boxing gym in honour of Hobbs who died suddenly from heart failure.

“He was a lovely lad,” said Muncaster. “He was at my school and he was my friend Izzy’s brother and unfortunately he passed away really unexpectedly on Boxing Day in 2017.

“His passion was boxing and he absolutely loved it. He was involved in a club called the Heart of England community boxing gym and just before he passed they got evicted and had to go into a derelict factory to train. So what they’re doing is fundraising to build a gym for that club and it’s going to be named after him.”

Although he grew up in East Lothian, Muncaster’s route into the Edinburgh team was less conventional than most. He left Scotland after winning a scholarship to Rugby School where his skills were noticed by the Leicester Tigers whose academy he joined at 14.

He returned home to join Edinburgh and his progress has been rapid. He missed the Challenge Cup win over Pau with a knee injury but hopes to return for the round of 16 tie against Bath on Saturday at the DAM Health Stadium.

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