South Africa’s Springboks celebrate their first Rugby World Cup since 1995. (Reuters)
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YOKOHAMA – At times it was brutal, often it was downright ugly, but who cares?
In the end there can have been few more poignant sights than that of Siya Kolisi, the boy from a dusty, poverty-stricken South African township, on Saturday lifting the Rugby World Cup following an emphatic victory over England.
The first black man to captain the Springboks hoisted the trophy high into the Yokohama night and was instantly showered by golden streamers as fireworks lit up the sky at the end of a momentous 32-12 triumph.
It was a scene destined for posterity, and sporting show reels the world over, and one which prompted tears from South Africans on the field and off it.
“Since I have been alive I have not seen South Africa like this,” Kolisi said. “It was like in ‘95,” he added, referring to the Rainbow Nation’s first World Cup triumph, on home soil.
That victory was immortalised by Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first post-apartheid president, wearing then-captain Francois Pienaar’s number six jersey.
That gesture was mirrored on Saturday when a beaming President Cyril Ramaphosa also donned the number six shirt, now worn by Kolisi, as he watched the presentation pitchside, waving to the captain who replied with a victory sign and a clenched fist.
“So many challenges we have,” Kolisi said. “Coach (Rassie Erasmus) told us we are not playing for ourselves, we are playing for the people back home. We are really proud as South Africans. Not many people gave us a chance. We had to believe in each other and our plan. We love you, South Africa, and we can achieve anything if we work together.” (Reuters)