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Boks show their colours

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The love of the game has quickly spread beyond English speakers

Rugby is no longer about colour. File image

RUGBY has a unique place in the history of our country. It was brought to South Africa by the British and was first played here more than 150 years ago. But a love of the game quickly spread beyond English speakers.

History records that it was Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist, and Paul Kruger, an Afrikaner leader, who came together to underwrite the first ever tour by a team that would later become known as the British Lions.

A few years later, the British and Afrikaners would go to war and, after the bloodshed, rugby played a role in trying to reconcile the two groups.

However, in terms of race, whites and blacks were kept apart.

In fact, the Springboks came to be closely associated with apartheid and were eventually isolated internationally.

In the 1990s, the wind of change blew over South Africa. In 1994 Nelson Mandela was elected the president of a democratic South Africa, and he, too, used rugby as a tool of reconciliation, although this time between races. The highlight was the now iconic moment when he walked onto the Ellis Park pitch at the 1995 World Cup final wearing the No 6 Springbok jersey.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the birth of non-racial rugby.

Back then the non-racial South African Rugby Union and the whites-only South African Rugby Board merged to form the South African Rugby Football Union.

A few years later it was renamed the South African Rugby Union, the name by which it is known today.

To commemorate the anniversary, the Springboks have, at different times, donned clothing in the colours of the South African flag.

It culminated in red on Saturday when the Boks played in Salta, Argentina.

What the Boks put on display was not just a fine performance on the field, but a show of unity. They played for one another, irrespective of their background.

Yes, it was scrappy. But by supporting one another, Allister Coetzee’s men have now won five on the trot and top the Rugby Championship log.

They have a break next week and then it’s on to Perth for a match-up with the Wallabies, and the following Saturday they will play the All Blacks in Albany.

It goes without saying that the next few legs of the championships will be on a much higher level.

Whatever the result, the current Springbok team have already taught us that we can achieve amazing results by working together and for one another.