I watched the film Invictus (again) recently, probably as the Rugby World Cup 2023 was in its initial stages. The film told the story of Nelson Mandela’s first term as President of South Africa who enlisted the national rugby team as a symbol of unity in an Aparthid-torn land on their quest to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
I also watched One Team One Country, a very moving documentary on the same 1995 final.
Fast forward to Saturday, 28th October South Africa again emerged victorious, sweeping up many records as well as the Web Ellis Cup:
the first rugby nation to win four men’s Rugby World Cups
the second (after opponents New Zealand) to claim back-to-back title,
and undefeated by New Zealand in any Rugby World Cup final – twice they have defeated New Zealand in the final, in 1995 as Nelson Mandela’s dream and now again in 2023.
When I listened to the speech of their captain, Siya Kolisi, at the end of the match, it seemed as if Rugby is still as important and symbolic as it was in 1995. He made an incredible speech:
“Look what 1995 (and South Africa’s very first World Cup win) did for sport in our country. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that, and the people that came before me. The people that made it possible for people of my colour to play.”
“People who are not from South Africa don’t understand what it means for our country. It is not just about the game. Our country goes through such a lot. We are just grateful that we can be here. I want to tell the people of South Africa ‘thank you so much’. This team just shows what you can do. As soon as we work together, all is possible, no matter in what sphere – in the field, in offices, it shows what we can do. I am grateful for this team, I am so proud of it.”
“There is so much that is wrong in our country,we are the last line of defence… there is so much division in our country but this team shows what people of different colours and backgrounds can do when they work together”.
These sentiments were echoed by his team-mate Faf de Klerk: “Hopefully this shows what unity and team-work can do… if we can come together like this, it can be a better country, and be a better world.”
I know very little about the game of Rugby – but if it means that much to a country – surely they are worthy winners. As a YouTuber commented: This Springbok team was special, not in talent, not in skill….special as they will be everlasting in our memories.