It was a moving day on Saturday, one which we will not forget in a long time. South Africa won the World Cup Rugby for the third time, continuing a twelve year winning streak cycle. A black captain would have been unheard of in a national sport that was dominated by Afrikaans players in the past. It was a day in which transformation in our country made world history. How proud the late Nelson Mandela would have been, so present at the 1995 World Cup Final when we won.
I watched the Semi-Final and Final at KONG Bar & Grill in De Waterkant, offered the same table on both days. On Saturday the restaurant was jam-packed, the gees was amazing, the co-owners Marnitz and Michelle were hands-on in checking our satisfaction throughout, as was Manager Dave Mitchell. The kitchen team headed by Chefs Coenraad and Aneesah did a fantastic job in serving flawless breakfasts and other meals to so ma y patrons. Waitress Beauty brought endless pots of hot water for my tea. They had a special kids table. And DJ Bryce played immediately afterwards too. A superb on the ball performance all round, and by the Springboks too.
I’m not a rugby fan normally, preferring watching international soccer championships. But I caught the gees, got to know the names of some of the players, the short Faf de Klerk with the long blond hair always being there to take the ball out of the scrum, and Handré Pollard doing the penalty kicks and conversions almost without fault, contributing greatly to our scores as the competition got tougher near the end of the Rugby World Cup.
But it is the captain of the team Siya Kolisi who impressed the most with his humility, his leadership, and his honesty about how he grew up in the Eastern Cape, living with his grandmother after losing his mother, not always having money to buy food, his rugby talent being spotted at school and being offered a scholarship at Grey Junior and High Schools in Port Elizabeth, playing the sport that his father loved playing too, ultimately making it into the Springbok team, playing his 50th game for the team on Saturday, and then selected as its captain last year. He plays for the Western Province team Stormers, and became its captain in 2017. He created the #StandTogether sentiment for his team, and now adopted by all South Africans. Kolisi was so humble that he asked Faf de Klerk to go up to collect the cup, which he quite rightly refused, pushing his captain forward.
Captain Kolisi shared in his moving speech after the winning match that they were not playing to win for the team but for 57 million South Africans back home. He thanked everyone in our country for their support, and said that we can achieve anything if we work together as one. ‘We face a lot of challenges. But you know the people of South Africa have gotten behind us. And we are so grateful to the people of South Africa. And, you know, we have so many problems in our country, but in a team like this, you know, we come from different backgrounds, different races, and we came together with one goal, to show we can achieve it’.
Coach Rassie Erasmus did an excellent job in building up the team, and spoke honestly about the problems our country faces, quoting Siya’s background as an example, but also referring to the crime that has made news headlines so often. His team praised him for his guidance, and for building a brotherhood amongst the players with very little friction between such diverse players.
The team was graced on Saturday with the presence of our President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking words of encouragement to them before the match. But the highlight was the visit of Prince Harry, who had just visited Cape Town and Johannesburg a month before, and in Japan to support the England team, to the Springbok dressing room after the match, congratulating the team on their well-deserved win, and saying: ‘rugby unites everyone around the world, and I cannot think of a nation that needs it more’.
As our team progressed throughout the World Cup, our country’s pride swelled, more and more citizens and visitors wearing the rugby jersey, and by Saturday almost every person at KONG wore the Springbok emblem with pride. The England supporters in the restaurant were drowned out by the Springbok supporters in the house. Afterwards cars drove through Camps Bay proudly waving the South African flag, or having smaller flags affixed to their cars, or even wrapped around themselves in pride,
On a walk through Camps Bay on Saturday afternoon, I saw a group of Coloured teenagers playing rugby on the lawn near the Tidal Pool, as well as a little young Black boy of about 2 years proudly holding his rugby ball, clearly just having received it as a gift from his parents. To me this was symbolic of what happened on Saturday morning in our country, winning the Webb Ellis trophy: perhaps we will now have national sports of rugby and soccer, played by all South Africans, and not dominated by a specific population group as had been the case in the past.
One hopes that the togetherness seen this past weekend will strengthen, and will unite our nation, which is still divided in so many ways. I too will try to embody #StandTogether in every way that I can.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein