Kolisi injured his left knee in April and has been in intensive rehabilitation to be fit enough to take his place at the head of the team in France next month.
His selection was rapturously greeted by a live audience at Multichoice City in Johannesburg and on live television, but he admitted afterwards that he feared he might not make a third tournament.
“I was scared for this one,” admitted Kolisi.
“I had a proper surgeon who gave me confidence and my medical team at the Springboks and at the Sharks – when they helped me – were all confident.
“But I was really scared. If it wasn’t for my wife and my family and the people I had around me and the guys who have been through what I’m going through before I would really have struggled.”
With his selection confirmed the World Cup-winning captain welcomed being part of the 33.
“It’s always special to be part of the group,” he said. “It’s special because there are so many players that can be chosen in the squad and there are a couple of guys that didn’t make it who are unlucky. We have the responsibility as the guys who are chosen that we play for them too!”
In his absence, the team has had three captains - Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth and Bongi Mbonambi. Kolisi celebrated the squad depth.
“I think that’s been one of our core strengths – the leadership in the group has been really good,” said Kolisi.
“When I was made captain in 2018, Rassie and Jacques had known me since I was 18 and they probably knew that I would struggle in the beginning and that I would take time to grow into the role.
“So they built a structure around me so that I just had to worry about the way I played, the discipline and talking to the ref. That gave everybody responsibility in the group, and it has always been like that.
“To be a captain is important for the public to know, and you speak to the ref but everybody is actually a leader in the group.”
Kolisi celebrated the elevation of his long-term provincial and national teammate, Mbonambi, to the captaincy.
“To have a guy like Bongi become captain is really special,” said Kolisi.
“I was so happy for him. I think Jacques (Nienaber) said it perfectly last week, Bongi demands respect, not by asking for it just the way he carries himself, the way he trains and the standards he sets.
“Duane [Vermeulen] has done it so many times – at the last World Cup and he won the Rugby Championship that year – and Eben has also captained so it’s really good.
“We’ve all got our roles, and no one speaks over each other – we all stay in our lane – that’s really important in the group. Even the young guys, they are also leaders – nobody is above the other. If it’s a question about the kicking game for example, I can’t speak over Grant Williams no matter how many caps he has. If he has a problem and speaks up, then everyone listens and that makes it easier in the group.”
The Springboks leave for Europe on Saturday – tickets (free of charge) to the public send-off is available HERE. They are next in action against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on 19 August.