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First to arrive, and the last to leave

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Everyone is caught up in the euphoria of the win, and conversation about the World Cup will be dominant around braai fires and under lapas for a very long time

South African captain Siya Kolisi holds the Webb Ellis Cup after South Africa defeated England to win the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday. Photo: Christophe Ena/AP

I’ve never really been one for gatherings. At these events there is just way too much stimulation for my liking. I struggle with small talk and the more people around the greater the possibility of small talk.

Look, there is nothing essentially wrong with small talk, it’s just that introverts prefer deep, well-thought-through conversations, and at a party, where all people want to do is just unwind, relax and take a breather, such deep conversations can be a bit of a ‘downer’.

When I do attend parties my strategy is to get there when enough people can agree that they saw me there, and then I’d leave before the Klipdrift starts pickling the livers and soaking the neurons.

However, there are those party animals who are the first to arrive and the last to leave. They love the party, they are the life of the party and it’s obvious that they have been looking forward to and preparing themselves for this party since the invitations were sent out.

Normal party-goers can’t keep up with them and will find themselves fading while these party animals just seem to thrive I am sure the hosts love to have them around, providing they’re not too greedy, rude or obnoxious.

Basically that’s what the Springbok rugby team did in Japan at the recently-completed Rugby World Cup tournament. The Boks were the perfect party animals.

Everyone is caught up in the euphoria of the win, and conversation about the World Cup will be dominant around braai fires and under lapas for a very long time.

And for a while inebriated philosophers will be able to tell you details about the campaign that you never imagined because everyone is whipped up into that common frenzy and belief – we won!

However, in one corner of the room, one foot out of the door, stands someone wondering. How does this help us?

Bok captain, Siya Kolisi, immediately after the match offered a suggestion, “We have so many problems in our country but a team like this, we come from different backgrounds, different races but we came together with one goal and we wanted to achieve it.”

Our country’s president said something similar: “This is a powerful indicator of what we can achieve as South Africans when we set goals for ourselves and we work together to achieve success,” said Cyril Ramaphosa.

The bottom line is the SA team set themselves a goal, then they took the 14 000km trip weeks before most teams got to Japan. The coach then had them training in the hottest, most humid corner of that country to condition the players for the gruelling, energy-sapping conditions they would face on the field.

Do you think the players enjoyed this torture? I think not, at least not all of them all of the time. I think some very bad things were said about Rassie Erasmus by one or two of those boys as the buckets of sweat poured off them.

It took a lot for the Boks to achieve their goal and I am worried that South Africans don’t realise that the main thing that this win has given us is simply an example.

Dear South Africans ‘we’ have won nothing. The Springboks have won the Webb Ellis Cup. That was their goal and they worked hard to achieve it. We can be happy for them, we can celebrate their skills, their courage and their commitment, but we have to be careful of hijacking their win.

Here’s what I am getting at: This squad of players went out there, put in the hard work, played some (at times) unattractive, yet effective rugby and got the job done, and this made the nation proud of them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could return the favour and make these boys proud of their nation?

Imagine if all South Africans, who are currently swollen with pride, would commit themselves to put in the hard work for as long as it would take under the most demanding conditions and become a people that we believed we could be back in the 1990s.

Sure, people will be saying, “Don’t spoil the mood!” But I am left to wonder what will happen once this euphoria wears off like it did in 1995 and again in 2007?

The Boks of 2019 had a goal, and they worked very, very hard to achieve that. This we have to admit whether we support them as a team or not. But they will have achieved little for this country if South Africans don’t take a leaf out of their book.

Already there are tweets of tribalism and racism flying around on social media taking the gloss off the win. Already the militant Bok supporters are shoving this win down the throats of acquaintances who dared support other teams during the tournament.

The unity of our nation that peaked to a frenzy on Saturday afternoon is already starting to crumble just days after the win.

We cannot expect to be united for 80 minutes at a time, and we can’t expect our sports teams to generate a feeling of unity for us. Lasting unity is rarely generated purely by emotion. It takes hard work and great sacrifice.

One thing that the World Cup victory should teach us is that it takes hard work, over a long period, in some very difficult circumstances, under the whip of a focused and unrelenting leader to reach a common goal.

And if we’re not prepared to put in the hard work, this celebration will just be filled with small talk.