Damian Willemse of South Africa celebrates the victory with the supporters following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Final between New Zealand (All Blacks) and South Africa (Springboks) at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Saint-Denis near Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Ecstatic South Africans celebrated well into Sunday after the Springboks claimed a record fourth title by defeating New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final in Paris.
Supporters of the national rugby team drank beers, waved flags and partied until the early hours in a wave of jubilation that swept the country from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
“I feel so good, I was literally in tears,” said Sofia Pringen, 21, her face painted in the national colours as she celebrated in central Cape Town after the victory.
“I knew that we [were] definitely going to win. I’m so happy! I am very happy!”
The city’s centre and waterfront were swarmed by thousands of Springboks T-shirt-wearing fans on Saturday night, many having watched the game at one of the several maxi screens set up by local authorities for public viewing.
After the match, motorcades of honking cars rode through the streets.
“It’s an incredible feeling, absolutely incredible feeling. The energy from all the local people, from everyone from Cape Town [is] absolutely unreal,” said Daniel Louis, a 20-year-old student.
South Africa edged New Zealand 12-11 for a nail-biting victory, helped by four penalty goals from ice-cool fly-half Handre Pollard.
At a tavern in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, celebrating Springboks supporters hugged, danced and cheered as the referee blew the final whistle.
The match was a tight, edgy encounter at a rain-soaked Stade de France, where defences ruled and the All Blacks lost captain Sam Cane to a first-half red card for a high tackle.
The Springboks prevailed to win a third successive knockout match in this tournament by a point, and add to their titles in 1995, 2007 and 2019.
Ramaphosa hails Springboks
“Sport has the power to transform individuals… and lift the spirits of entire nations,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was at the stadium in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, and flanked captain Siya Kolisi as he lifted the Webb Ellis Cup.
“Tonight, Siya Kolisi and the 2023 World Cup champions have gifted us an extraordinary, inspired and inspiring national achievement that lifts our hearts and hoists our Flag even higher.”
It was the second time Kolisi has lifted the trophy after a 32-12 triumph over England in the 2019 final in Japan.
“The Springboks have not only displayed supreme athleticism, but also the spirit of unity, impeccable teamwork and perseverance that defines our nation,” said parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.
“This achievement exemplifies the transformative power of sport in South Africa. It’s not just about the game; it’s about its ability to unite our diverse nation, reinvigorate hope, and showcasing the strength that comes from our rich diversity.”The Springboks are expected to arrive back in South Africa from France on Tuesday. — AFP