The Minister Of Sport , Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa wishes to express gratitude to all compatriots for their incredible support for the nation's Rugby Team in its exploits registered thus far in the Rugby World Cup.
It has been this Ministry's great pleasure to witness the nation's breathtaking support for the Springboks, reverberating not only in the Provinces where the love of this game has been entrenched over generations, but also in individuals who have claimed pride, rightful ownership and love for this game across the length of breadth of this country.
The Springboks successful campaign - which has led them into the finals in this World Cup - has been roundly supported by South Africans, and as we approach the historical moment of the final match against England on Sunday, compatriots are urged to use this moment to reflect on the glorious history of this nation on the rugby field of play, and learn how in the past this moment has contributed in building a socially cohesive country and facilitated nation building.
In 2014, the benchmarking record in the form of the book "20-Year Review: South Africa 1994 to 2014", it was noted that South Africa has made good progress in building social cohesion and promoting a new single national identity, although it must be noted that work is still continuing in this regard.
Apartheid South Africa was subjected to international sporting sanctions which isolated the country and its athletes from international competition. In contrast, since 1994, sport has been a unifying force in South Africa. A dedicated focus was placed on transforming this sector to increase and ensure equitable access to sporting opportunities.
To a great degree, we have achieved this, although we still have much ground to cover.
South Africa has also successfully hosted a number of key international sporting events. These include the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in 1996 and the FIFA World Cup in 2010, the 2013 Afcon and the 2014 CHAN tournaments.
In 2022, South Africa will host the Rugby Sevens World Cup. In 2023, we will host the Netball World Cup in Cape Town.
This Ministry consider the latter a great tribute to not only this nation, but to the women athletes of this country, and specifically the recently crowned Africa Champions, who also put up a sterling showing against the greatest Netball playing nations in the world in Liverpool, the national Netball Team.
These events have in the past, present and future, strengthened and will continue to be the glue that keeps this country together by fostering an overarching national identity as well as a spirit of camaraderie.
As of three weeks ago, the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture have led the call for South Africans to mark "Rugby Fridays" in support of their national team. This Friday is no different. Whereas many South Africans heeded this call in recent weeks, compatriots are now urged to support their national team in even greater numbers ahead of the historical clash on Saturday.
A victory for South Africa on Saturday will also make history, as it will be the only team to have won the Webb Ellis Cup on three different continents, namely Africa, Europe and Asia.
Four countries have won the Webb Ellis Cup, namely New Zealand three times, Australia and South Africa each twice, and England once.
As the opportunity looms for South Africa to match New Zealand in attaining this victory for the third time in history, let us be reminded what this victory on this elite stage has meant for this nation in the past.
President Nelson Mandela lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy in 1995, with the admirable outfit led by Francois Pienaar. He said:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”
In 2007, it was President Thabo Mbeki's turn to hold this trophy aloft along with then captain John Smit. He said: "We need to build up sport & use this victory to accelerate the process of getting all our young people, black & white, involved in sport."
In 2011, the nation's forces on the field of play, were knocked out by Australia in the semi-final.
Eight years later, in 2019, South Africa is pitted against one of the world's most established democratic nations- England- but goes into Sunday's game historically, in terms of this game - better.
It has been stated in the past weeks that the incredible scenes of unity and social cohesion brought about by the victories attained by the national team in this World Cup are temporary, fleeting and even "insignificant" as we will soon after the World Cup forget what we have collectively felt and once more focus on the sobering socio-economic matters we must contend with as our lived reality.
However, what the Springboks have been able to do in recent days is something that can not be reduced to an arbitrary "feel good" moment.
This moment has presented itself since 1995, and its ingredients for nation-building are almost magical in their reoccurrence. As was the case in 1995, may all South Africans be reminded of the slogan then of the Springboks, that carried this team and on its shoulders, the nation's aspirations: "One Team. One Country."
The Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture reaffirms that as a nation, we are #StrongerTogether, #RematlaMmoho, #SimanyeneSinamandla
Bring the World Cup home Springboks.
* Nathi Mthethwa is the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture.