On Saturday morning, English rugby union supporters left their beds with much expectation. We hoped to see our national rugby team beat South Africa in the final of The Rugby World Cup. England had beaten both Australia and New Zealand to reach the final in Yokohama, Japan. Surely, we could overcome South Africa too.
But it wasn't to be. South Africa were stronger and more determined in their forward play and, as the game went on, they ground England down. The final score was England 12 South Africa 32. We were well-beaten and I believe that all England rugby supporters will generously admit that on the day, the best team won.
In years gone by, the South African national rugby team was bleached entirely white even though 90% of the population of that country is non-white. But at this year's final their team was multi-racial, led by their very first black captain. That man was Siya Kolisi, pictured at the top of this blogpost. He grew up in poverty in the Eastern Cape region. To see him lead his country to a world cup victory was bigger than sport. His captaincy was a symbol of hope for for all township dwellers, for barefoot children skipping in the street, for hotel cleaners and agricultural workers, for the very prospect of equality.
Kolisi's father, Fezakele Kolisi, attended the final and witnessed his son lifting the golden cup. He had never been on an aeroplane before and had never previously left South Africa. It was quite a moment for him too.
I admit that I felt pretty blue at the end of Saturday's game. My facial muscles turned the corners of my mouth down for the rest of the day but when all is said and done it was just a rugby match. Congratulations to South Africa!
If there is anything I DO like about sports it's the often heroic tales of individuals. And my definition of "heroic" can take many forms. Seems like Siya Kolisi has a historic and heroic story. I am sure his father could not possibly be prouder.ReplyDelete
Maybe one day there'll be a film - "The Siya Kolisi Story". It will be a story worth telling.Delete
How kind of you to extend this congratulations and write this post for South Africa. It is never easy to watch your team lose but such good sportsmanship is a win in itself.ReplyDelete
Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say that the other team were better.Delete
What a great post you have written today! Having licked our wounds after our defeat against England in the semi-final, most New Zealanders (even those like me with English in-laws and a deep love for English landscape, literature and history)turned their full support to South Africa for the final, knowing what a victory would do to advance the struggle for equal rights in the Rainbow Nation. Type 1981 in Google and it immediately brings up Springbok Tour, a time of this country's greatest shame, civil unrest and police brutality.ReplyDelete
In 1981 NZ was torn apart by the National (Right wing) Government decision to allow the Springboks to tour here. Families, Churches and workplaces were divided. Every aspect of life here affected by the debate of the previous twenty years and the struggle to Halt All Racist Tours as a means of pressuring South Africa to end Apartheid. As someone who marched in the 70s and 80s in support of freedom it could bring nothing but joy to see a black man captain the premier sports team of South Africa and receive that Cup. We long ago realised that you can't separate politics and sport.
We have come a long way in NZ but still have far to go before we can consider ourselves a country of "equal opportunity for all" but we have learned the importance of saying "Sorry" for historic land grabs before negotiating fair financial settlements . The pain and suffering caused by white supremacist violence came to peaceful Christchurch this year forcing us to confront our own beliefs and levels of tolerance for religious and cultural difference. An earthquake of a different kind. Recovery is on going and vigilance is constant. Sorry this comment is so long but you throw up such interesting topics...
On a lighter note it's Spring, and I'm off into the garden before the high of 27 degrees. Adele
I also marched against Apartheid in the seventies Adele. Thank you for such a long and interesting comment that reminded me of all that worldwide pressure to defeat the racists of Old South Africa.Delete
A wonderful, inspirational win. I'm not a Rugby Union fan, no matter who is playing.ReplyDelete
I didn't watch the match, but the South African captain (who reminded me of Arnie - "The Terminator" every time I saw/heard the replays on TV of his interviews after the game) will be a worthy leader for years to come. He will be a hero...a legend the younger generations.
Leaving aside his sporting prowess, he seems like a good man. In the course of time, perhaps he will enter the political arena. South Africa needs leaders like him.Delete