The nation is proud of the Springboks once again. A combination of bad form and disillusionment over transformation has arguably muted that collective pride until now.
In 1995, we were told that Francois Pienaar and his players would lead us into a new, united democratic country. Twenty-three years later, we’re hearing similar murmurs.
“Our boys represented us with pride, you could see their determination and spirit of unity,” said Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa on Sunday. “I had no doubt in my mind that they will win the game despite their initial 3-24 setback. If we can all emulate the Springbok spirit of never die attitude we can achieve a lot as people.”
Many had tuned into the match to watch history: Siya Kolisi would captain the side, the first black player to do so in a Test match. Until tighthead prop Trevor Nyakane was withdrawn, we were also set to witness the first ever all-black front row.
That horror 3-24 scoreline within the first twenty minutes put only a momentary damper on proceedings. After the game, Kolisi credited the experienced Duane Vermeulen and Willie le Roux with helping him inspire the side to a memorable comeback win. It was also a day for the debutants as Aphiwe Dyantyi bagged a try and S’bu Nkosi touched down twice.
Now, Xasa says, the Boks will be trusted with giving a fitting tribute to one of the most significant days in South Africa: June 16. President Cyril Ramaphosa will be in Bloemfontein to celebrate the occasion. “Our President will commemorate the class of 1976 who ignited the spirit of resistance at Orlando Soweto. The Springboks victory will be a befitting tribute to our heroes.”
President Ramaphosa himself said: “Well done to the Boks on a great win – a superb performance playing against England under the capable leadership of our new captain Siya Kolisi.”
Well done to the Boks on a great win – a superb performance playing against England under the capable leadership of our new captain Siya Kolisi. pic.twitter.com/Jtzp0hpodB
— President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) June 10, 2018
One of Xasa’s predecessors, Fikile Mbalula, was one of the many politicians to praise the victory. “Springboks this is what I call a Bunch of winners …” he tweeted. He had famously previously called Bafana Bafana a bunch of losers.
Springboks this is what I call a Bunch of winners ….
— ANC Elections Head (Chief) (@MbalulaFikile) June 9, 2018
“Congrats to the Springboks,” opposition leader Mmusi Maimane tweeted. “What a game, what a team. Our nation of champions.”
Another Democratic Alliance member and Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip was also quick to congratulate the team and one player in particular.
“Congratulations Siya Kolisi! Your leadership ensured an excellent Springboks victory. Your hometown, Nelson Mandela Bay, applauds all you have achieved.”
Countless other sport superstars and prominent personalities joined the chorus of praise.
Even one Steve Hofmeyr had to admit that the national side destroyed his expectations. “In all honesty, the world and I didn’t give Rassie’s team a chance in hell and they blew us away, he said. “Well done Boks. (I’ll crit on Monday. I’m too relieved today).”