Rassie Erasmus says that it’s not the Springboks’ responsibility but their privilege to bring South African supporters hope in what are troubled times for the country. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
Erasmus and Siya Kolisi made quite an entrance to the post-match news conference at the Yokohama Stadium. The captain carried the Webb Ellis Cup over to the top table, set it down in the middle, and then paused for effect.
The Boks, the gesture seem to indicate, now own this particularly significant item. Come what may over the next four years, South Africa will be recognised as world champions.
The Boks have made no secret about the fact that they’ve been playing for the country back home. On Saturday evening, with their clothes still soaked in champagne following the post-win celebrations, the coach and captain spoke about what the result meant for South Africa.
‘We’ve spoken a lot about pressure over the past week or so,’ said Erasmus. ‘When you stop to think about it, the pressure of playing in a rugby game is nothing compared to the pressure of not having a job or learning that your best friend was murdered.
‘Rugby shouldn’t be about pressure,’ he continued. ‘It should be about giving people hope through the way you play. It should be about bringing people together and getting them to forget their problems for a while.
‘It may not be our responsibility as rugby players to do that, but it is our privilege. That’s the attitude we’ve embraced over the entire campaign.’
Erasmus became emotional when he was asked to comment on the impact Kolisi has made in terms of uniting a team and ultimately a nation.
‘We spoke a lot today about one another’s stories and where we come from. I think that people get used to these stories and I suppose even you guys as the media might not be shocked by what we tell you anymore.
‘But if you stop to think about it, Siya didn’t have enough money for shoes. He would go days without eating.’
The Bok coach took a moment to compose himself before continuing.
‘You think about that and then you look at this man who is sitting in front of you holding the World Cup. This is a massive achievement and it sums up what kind of guy Siya is.’
As usual, the humble Kolisi deflected all praise and credited the coach and his teammates.
‘I can’t describe how it feels to see the joy on my teammates’ faces. They have worked incredibly hard for this, ‘ the skipper said.
‘The coach turned this team around. he got things to change when he took over by making rugby the main thing again.
‘We’ve built something special and it’s been great to see the country getting behind us.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Image