The third World Cup title is a historic and highly emotional one for the African country which can count its fair share of losses recently
South Africans were joined by President Cyril Ramaphosa in celebrating the Springboks, who won the rugby World Cup final in Yokohama, Japan on Saturday.
“This is a historic moment for South Africa, for world rugby and for Japan as the host nation,” Ramaphosa said in an official statement.
“It is a moment that is embedded forever in our national memory,” added the president, who has been enthusiastically supporting the national team, even requesting in parliament last week that everyone wear their Springbok jerseys to work or school.
From stadiums in impoverished areas, where people watched on big screens set up for the final, to taverns, homes and on social media, tears, cheers, hugs and dancing were order of the day after the thrilling 32-12 victory against England.
The third World Cup title is a historic and highly emotional one for the African country which can count its fair share of losses recently.
“The country needed some magic. Siya and the boys brought it,” Mervin Chetty from Johannesburg told reporters.
Twelve years after South Africa’s last World Cup win, elation for the country’s first black captain Siyamthanda ‘Siya’ Kolisi and the team’s official motto “Stronger Together” underpinned reactions from rich and poor, black and white.
“I actually started crying, I was with 50 guys, big boys – big rugby boys crying like babies. I am so proud. It is a beautiful day for our country,” school rugby coach Thando Magalakangqa said.
“I am very excited; the cup is coming home,” Mmapula Shika, from Tembisa, said. “We all watched the TV, the kids are wearing the Bokkie jersey.”
Ramaphosa was handed the number 6 jersey by Kolisi before the game. This is a highly significant gesture in the hearts and minds of South Africans who remember Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela donning it when South Africa won their first World Cup in 1995.
“We have come a long way from 1995 to where we are today,” said Ramaphosa in a speech addressed to the nation before the game.
“We are demonstrating to the world that we are a diverse and united nation . . . the nation Nelson Mandela wanted us to be.”
Former Springbok turned commentator and coach Gcobani Bobo, said: “South Africa can dream again.”
South Africa has been in the doldrums of late with a sharp economic downturn, high levels of unemployment, poverty, violence and racial tension all taking their toll on the national psyche.
Even the country’s rugby game plan had come in for criticism both locally and abroad. Now the power of sports to bring a nation together, as it did so significantly at the 1995 World Cup, appears to have struck a chord again.
Former Springbok and 2007 World Cup winner Bryan Habana retweeted an interview with British ITV where he told Kolisi: “I know Tata Madiba is up there in heaven smiling down on you.”