From the unmitigated heights of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup victory to the depths of mauling suffered by the men’s cricket team; from the inspiring performance by our too-oft neglected netball team who upset the world order, to the failure of Banyana to match the glory of the previous season — it has been an emotional year. A year where our sporting teams have reiterated the incredible tenacity and large dollops of faith that is required to be called a true ‘South African’
Springboks: Success story to linger over
We’re the world champions. Could there really be any other score?
It goes without saying that the Springboks are the golden success story this year. The words of captain Siya Kolisi dedicating the World Cup to all South Africans have been immortalised and still ring in our ears when we look back on that day in Yokohama.
They weren’t empty platitudes either. For arguably the first time there was a palpable feeling that our rugby team belonged to everyone. As much as historical prejudice still has its roots dug deep in the sport, this was a side that, from the outside at least, did not seem shaped by old boys’ clubs or favouritism.
Transparency and vision translated to success on the pitch. From day one, coach Rassie Erasmus updated the public on his long-term plan that would culminate at the World Cup.
Despite this, not many among us can claim to have been believers all along. Super Rugby, for one, certainly wasn’t a positive indicator that South Africa would be home to the next champions of the world as our franchises were horribly outplayed. Winning a superfluous Rugby Championship hardly erased the doubts either.
But the World Cup would change all that. An opening loss to the All Blacks notwithstanding, the Boks were ruthlessly effective. In keeping with his tenure, Erasmus approached every game with an understanding of what it would take to win and a clear gameplan on hand.
It was not the most gripping rugby in the world — there was no New Zealand flair or raw England power — but the wins kept coming. There would be no Japanese upset this time around; nor would there be a successful Welsh ground-out victory.
Even Kiwi-killers England were no match for South African pragmatism. Kolisi and the rest of the pack put in the performance of a lifetime as the bookies’ underdogs dominated the final to bring the Webb Ellis Cup home.
It may be easy to say in retrospect but it doesn’t make it any less true: the Springboks are winners — and winners always find a way to make it to the top.