The recently concluded World Cup victory parade showed how sport has the power to unite, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Boks wrapped up their trophy tour of South Africa on Monday. Over the past five days, the team has travelled through Gauteng, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town to showcase the fruit of their labours: the Webb Ellis Cup.
On Monday, a few of the players spoke about their experiences aboard the tour bus. Clearly they have been touched by the level of support in the city centres as well as in the townships.
History tends to repeat itself. The Boks enjoyed a similar parade across South Africa in 2007. Bryan Habana, the standout player at that tournament, still speaks about how kids in the rural areas would chase the bus to catch a glimpse of their heroes.
On Monday, one of the stars of the 2019 World Cup had a similar story to tell.
‘Our goal from the outset was to give people in this country hope,’ Cheslin Kolbe said. ‘It’s been special to see how people have celebrated the win over the past few days.
‘We’ re talking about fans standing on the side of the road for hours on end just so that they can get a glimpse of us for a few seconds,’ the wing added. ‘That shows how much pride they have in this team.
‘There were so many special moments on this tour. I will never forget the kid who ran for an hour or two behind the bus. He was so thirsty but he just kept on running.’
The Boks have used this tour of the country to spread their message about unity. The team is comprised of players from different races and backgrounds, and as many as five languages are spoken within the group. Those differences haven’t stopped the players from realising a common goal.
At Cape Town City Hall on Monday, Siya Kolisi highlighted the diversity of his team. He urged the crowd of people gathered for the occasion to follow the Boks’ example.
I don’t think that anyone is expecting a World Cup victory to change a country overnight. What’s been interesting to note over the past week, however, is the manner in which fans have come together to celebrate the Boks. There’s been nothing false about that unity.
On Monday morning, a small crowd formed at the corner of Wale and Long Streets ahead of the team bus’ arrival. As more and more fans packed the streets, people of every colour joined the group in dancing and singling ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ and ‘Shosholoza’. There were even a few chants of ‘Ole, ole, ole.’
The group’s enthusiasm did not wane as the hours passed. In fact, the fans found new levels of energy when the bus eventually rounded the corner and Kolisi pumped the Webb Ellis Cup and down.
Looking around, you could see what it meant to the fans to be within touching distance of their heroes and rugby’s greatest prize. The players, who have travelled a great distance over the past few days, also appeared affected by the scene playing out on the streets below.
It’s not up to the Boks to effect signficant change in South Africa. What they can do, as Kolbe suggested on Monday, is give fans from every walk of life a reason to smile.
Over the past week, we’ve seen a diverse South African fan base reacting to the Boks’ World Cup triumph. We’ve seen people coming together, and in many cases joining together to sing and dance, to celebrate the achevement.
Nelson Mandela said that sport has the power to unite in a way that little else does. Over the past few days, we’ve witnessed those words in action.