In the third of a series celebrating rugby’s power to unite, DYLAN JACK looks back on the Springboks’ World Cup trophy tour in 2019.
When asked for a specific instance that demonstrated the late great president Nelson Mandela’s vision of sport becoming a uniting force, I think of the celebrations that followed the Springboks’ World Cup win last year.
Unfortunately, I was not even alive when Francois Pienaar received the World Cup from Mandela in 1995, while I was slightly too young to fully appreciate the significance of when the Boks next tasted World Cup glory in 2007.
From the moment they touched down in batches at OR Tambo Airport, the Springboks brought the nation to a virtual standstill. From Pretoria to Johannesburg, Durban to Port Elizabeth and finishing in Cape Town, provinces appeared to take a public holiday to celebrate their heroes.
What made this particular tour special is that an effort was made to get the Webb Ellis Cup to the people. Not only did the Springboks tour the major metropolitan areas, but they made stops in Soweto, Zwide, Langa and Belhar to name but a few.
One specific instance that stands out, of course, is the heartwarming moment during the Johannesburg leg of the tour when a Helpmekaar schoolboy was brought to tears after getting his rugby boots signed by Kolisi. In fact, the Kolisis would track down the schoolboy – identified as Lebo Mogoma – and invited him and his mother to the BrightRock Players Choice Awards for an unforgettable evening.
I was privileged enough to get the opportunity to cover the Cape Town leg of the tour for SA Rugby magazine. This was the final part of the trophy tour and believe me when I say that, after close to a week of partying, the Springboks’ collective battery was pap. Still, Kolisi and co raised their energy levels for one last go, cajoling the people of the Western Cape into a mass celebration.
During that particular leg, it was incredible to see the sheer number of people that piled into the Cape Town city bowl to get a view of the Boks. People sang, danced, cheered and put themselves at risk of death by bus tyres to get close to the Boks.
In the townships, children fuelled by endless amounts of energy chased down the team bus down the N2 for what felt like kilometres, while others climbed on to the roofs of their homes to get a better view of the bus as it made its way past.
It did not matter whether you were black or white, rich or poor – for five days people put their differences aside to celebrate the herculean effort in turning the Springboks from one of rugby’s diminishing powers into the best team in the world.
Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images