When Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard was working out if he could kick the 55-metre penalty that would ultimately win the quarter-finals against host France, on-field captain Bongi Mbonambi screamed into his ear: “This is for South Africa”. And it was. Pollard slotted that crucial late penalty away, as he did the following week against England, where a lacklustre and emotionally exhausted Springboks stumbled into the final.
But we’re in the final and, once again, sports has shown us the way to unite our fractured country – in precisely the way our (ageing) political leaders cannot.
Bringing braai-loving South Africans together like nothing else could
For one week, South Africans won’t care about politics or load shedding as the Springboks show us how to rise from adversity (or just being shattered from playing a second mini-final against the hosts after the pool loss against Ireland). The country could do with some good news, and some inspiration.
Siya Kolisi is the most extraordinary of leaders – he has inspired his team to the brink of a second final and a chance to hold the William Webb Ellis trophy aloft again. As much credit must go to the eccentric but brilliant coaching duo of Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber.
It’s an oft-repeated thought that sports coaches would make good presidents and “imagine what Rassie could do with running corruption-weary South Africa”. Apart from it never happening, there is a key difference between the people playing for the Springboks and those working for the government.
The Springboks are doing it for the country, as Mbonambi reminded Pollard, and Kolisi constantly reminds us all. Speaking of Cheslin Kolbe’s game-deciding charge down against his former teammate Thomas Ramos, Kolisi called it “chasing lost causes” in which the team “don’t give up until they put the ball down over the tryline”.
Crucially, he added: “We worked together as a team. We never give up. You can lose as a team, but as long as you don’t give up”.
Imagine that work ethic from our government, from the Sita workers who went on strike instead of managing the country’s (derelict) State IT agency. Imagine if non-practising Energy minister Gwede Mantashe and electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, who is unable to practise after the ANC chairman dubbed him a mere “project manager,” chased the Eskom “lost cause” with as much commitment.
Like they did in 1995, the Springboks are uniting our country in a way that our political leaders don’t – and bringing us together like the braai-loving people we are.
Because this is a technology column, and I will get into trouble for drifting off focus, I have watched most of the games through the DStv Stream app – and not my DStv Xplora decoder (although I have recorded all the Springboks games to watch again the next day). A few years ago, while upgrading to the latest Xplora model, I realised we no longer needed the Xtra View decoder for the TV we put out on the patio. Instead of hardware and cabling, I was using an app. Television – like so much else that used to be a standalone service – has been subsumed into the internet. TV is an app.
Rugby is real life and we’re going to win the World Cup. This is a team making its own luck and its own destiny – a timely reminder that all weary Saffas could do with.
This column first appeared in the Financial Mail.