And he was brought up by his grandmother in the Port Elizabeth Township. Not exactly the way to get a head start on life. And here's an interesting piece about his wife Rachel.
"Siya running out in front of the team in Johannesburg is an unbelievably pivotal moment in South African rugby history" - Bryan Habana. Since emerging from the depths of apartheid in 1994, well in excess of 50 black or mixed-race players have played rugby for South Africa. However, in 127 years of history, no black man had been entrusted with the ultimate honour in South African sport; to lead the Springboks into battle in a Test match.
It is why figures such as Bryan Habana - a Springbok great, himself of mixed race - believe Siya Kolisi's appointment as captain for the forthcoming series against England, which starts on Saturday at the grand Ellis Park in Johannesburg, is a watershed development for not just South African rugby, but the country as a whole.
"It's a monumental moment for South African rugby, and a moment in South African history," Habana, a World Cup winner in 2007, told the BBC's Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
"From where Siya has come from, from his humble beginnings, having worked unbelievably hard to get to this moment - it's absolutely fantastic. I couldn't be more proud. I texted him last week and told him how important this is."
Born into poverty and raised by his grandmother in the Zwide township of Port Elizabeth, Kolisi's story is a significant one.
"So many people in this country come from a similar background, and he has been able to break the shackles of poverty to get to where he is," said Vata Ngobeni, a journalist and SABC rugby analyst who knows 26-year-old Kolisi well.
"It is extremely inspiring, and one that means more than just him becoming Springbok captain. I don't think a lot of black people thought in their lifetime they would see a black Springbok captain. It brings back the dignity of black South Africans who have been involved in rugby for a very long time."
Kolisi's route out of the townships came courtesy of Grey High School's Outreach Programme, which helps students from disadvantaged communities.
"He was a fish out of water. He came here and couldn't speak English but despite those limitations he was a very likeable kid and had something very special about him," Fenner Barnard, Kolisi's boarding master at Grey, told BBC Sport.
More if you hit the link above.