In the first instalment of a series looking at standout memories of rugby’s unifying power, CRAIG LEWIS celebrates the growth of the Gwijo Squad.
Of course, in this new series from our SA Rugby magazine team, I’m quite certain that one of my colleagues will point to the historic 1995 World Cup won by the Springboks in South Africa, and the iconic influence of the late great president Nelson Mandela. In terms of a unifying rugby memory, there’s nothing that really competes.
Yet, I was just eight years old at the time and, in fairness, largely oblivious to the significance of that time in our country’s history.
It’s something iconic to reflect back on, but I have no doubt that part of Mandela’s vision for the future of South Africa has been realised by the more recent emergence of colourful and cosmopolitan supporters group, the Gwijo Squad.
More than two decades since that magic Mandela moment in 1995, it has taken rugby by storm, and made significant strides towards realising his dream by embracing diversity and bringing a proudly South African flavour of festivity to stadiums around the country.
During last year’s World Cup, there was a special spirit that resonated throughout South Africa as videos emerged of the Gwijos watching the Springboks claim a third world title in Japan. At various venues, restaurants and bars around the country, hundreds of fans from all walks of life were infected with the ‘Gwijo’ spirit as singing and dancing accompanied the viewing experience of watching the Boks do the business at the World Cup.
And as explained in a recent SA Rugby magazine feature on the supporters group, it all started when a group of friends from the Eastern Cape gathered to support Siya Kolisi when he was appointed Springbok captain in 2018.
The group has also seen the Springboks return the love by heading to the stands after certain matches to sing and dance with the Gwijo Squad in a show of appreciation.
It’s been a game changer in South African rugby, and long may it continue!