Mark Keohane, in his Cape Times column, writes that the authentic transformation of the Springboks makes this World Cup campaign the most significant in the history of South African rugby.
This World Cup is only starting for South Africa and I am convinced the Springboks will be in next weekend’s final. I am also confident they will win the tournament.
South Africa, Champions of the World, has a great ring to it. Ditto, Siya Kolisi, World Cup-winning Springbok captain.
All through the tournament, so many commentators and analysts from different countries, have been talking up South Africa. Often, I have read ‘that the stars are aligning’ or ‘that is has been written in the stars’ for the Springboks.
For me, it has been the most significant World Cup campaign in the history of South African rugby. It’s been the tournament where the Springboks, thanks to the selections of coach Rassie Erasmus, have finally broken the shackles that was holding back transformation.
Rugby isn’t a white man’s game. It has always been a game of choice for South Africans, black and white. Transformation is about opportunity and creating an environment aimed at success and not failure.
Erasmus has put together the most potent forward unit in modern South African history, and he has done it with the finest black and white rugby players. He hasn’t reverted to stereotype that a good Springbok team is made up of two black wingers and 13 merit-white selections.
He has built a team of South African rugby players who are simply the best in their positions and among the best in the world.
When I think of World Cups and Springbok transformation, historically it was all about wingers: Chester Williams in 1995, Breyton Paulse in 1999, Ashwin Willemse in 2003, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Now for the first time I think of wingers, centres, fullbacks, flyhalves, scrumhalves, loose-forwards, props and hookers.
The incredible story of the Springboks in Japan in 2019 is the potency of two front rows, white and black, who have dominated every team at set phase. It is of a squad, in which there is so little to choose between who constitutes one and two in each position. It is about a coach who has won the trust of all his players because of his honesty about their rugby pedigree and how each player speaks to each opponent’s challenge.
I have never enjoyed a South African World Cup campaign as much as this because for the first time in our country’s rugby history, a united Springbok team speaks to an entire nation.
Siya Kolisi has been captain courageous throughout this tournament. Erasmus and the medical team did everything possible to get him to the World Cup and Kolisi has delivered.
Wingers Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi have sizzled, with Mapimpi the tournament’s leading try-scorer and Kolbe among the candidates for player of the tournament.
Injury has ruled out Kolbe but S’bu Nkosi makes for a quality replacement.
There is so much about the Springboks in Japan to inspire South Africa as a nation.
There has been growth, when previously there were groans and moans.
Wear green proudly today (Friday) as a celebration of what our country should be, which is united in one common goal of being the best.
The Springboks, in Japan, have been wonderful ambassadors and each one of the squad has espoused the values of what makes a country special through its citizens.
Stand proud on Sunday, no matter the result, because never will there be a Springbok World Cup squad that has been more pivotal to the future of South African rugby.