The success of the Springboks has fostered a much-needed feel-good factor throughout South Africa, writes former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers.
What a pleasure it has been to follow the progress of the Springboks at this World Cup. We’ve seen so much positivity and excitement surrounding the team’s success, with videos going viral showing fans from all demographics and cultures celebrating in green and gold jerseys.
It’s something powerful and we’ve again seen the role sport plays in terms of social cohesion. Through success on the sportsfield it’s clear there is something much bigger at stake than just a game of rugby.
Everyone enjoys supporting a successful team. The Boks have done wonderfully to turn their fortunes around and achieve what they have at this World Cup. It’s something people want to be associated with.
It also shows that we are progressing. Not only do we have Siya Kolisi leading our team so wonderfully, but we also saw a black African featuring in a World Cup final for South Africa for the first time. And it’s not just one or two, but several. Even though we still have a long way to go, it does show that we are transforming and while this is not a column about politics and transformation, it’s still something to celebrate.
In the past some may have viewed it as a case of either transforming or being successful, whereas this shows that, when done correctly, you can achieve both at the same time and Rassie Erasmus can take credit for that. Having said that, the players must also be praised for performing so well under this extra pressure.
We have witnessed the unifying effect of cosmopolitan supporters group the Gwijo Squad, who also have a connection with Kolisi. Much of the country associates with that, but we are getting to the stage where we’re acknowledging the differences we have within the team and using that in our favour to make us stronger.
Before the Boks’ campaign began, they championed the catchphrase ‘Stronger Together’, and it is encouraging to see that as a nation we are starting to embrace the message and build on it. It doesn’t change the issues we have in South Africa, but it is a step in the right direction.
In 2007, it was a privilege to be involved in a successful World Cup campaign that brought the country together, but it’s difficult to compare that experience to this year, or even 1995. People want something positive to hold on to. In our rugby-mad nation, we are happy when the Boks are performing well. Another exciting prospect is that the majority of this squad will still be around for the next World Cup.
That’s fantastic in terms of consistency from a player-base point of view. The big question will be about the consistency in coaching, which is something that has let us down a bit after World Cups. If we can get that right, our rugby will continue to improve. Culture is king and, whether that be in a sports team or corporate environment, you need to have a quality culture to achieve long-term sustainable success.
I’ve been close to the team at times, also looking in from from the outside, and it does seem like the Boks have a fantastic culture of inclusiveness where the differences of each individual are appreciated and accepted. That really shows how our differences help make us stronger together.
*De Villiers is a former Bok captain and World Cup winner, who earned 109 Test caps. He now serves as the head of philanthropy at Citadel. Follow him on Instagram @jean_devilliers.
Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images