South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis was the Proteas top scorer at the World Cup. Photo: Rui Vieira/AP Photo
It is final, two of our national sports teams - cricket and women’s soccer - did not make it to the knock-out stages of their respective World Cup campaigns in England and France.

We are unified in our desolation and calling for mass resignations or the firing of this coach and the other.

On the other hand, in his SONA, President Cyril Ramaphosa asked us to join him in his dream of a South Africa hitherto considered impossible. Some of us laughed in scorn of his exhortation that we dream when we are choking daily in the nightmare that is unemployment, corruption, crime and disease.

We could also look next door to Zimbabwe. That country, recovering from decades of stagnation and underdevelopment, can hardly afford the 1200mW of electricity it needs to keep the lights on. The absence of forex, the impending return to the days of hyperinflation and reports of infighting within the ruling party threaten to take Zimbabwe back to the same dysfunctional state it just escaped from.

Mozambique, also in rebuilding mode, got hit by Cyclone Idai - which sunk human settlements in a literal and figurative quagmire. We can look everywhere for evidence of this doomsday scenario for (South) Africa; or its diametric opposite. Either way, wise people say, we will find it.

To bring this back to our sports-induced depression, our last hope is that Bafana Bafana will emulate the championship-winning Class of 1996 in Egypt.

After scraping through to the round of 16, they came up against Mo Salah and the Pharaohs. Consensus prognosis was that our luck would run out on Saturday. But Baxter’s boys did the unthinkable and stunned their more-fancied opponents to advance to the quarter-finals.

As in sports, when the odds are stacked against us, no coach, manual, trainer or magic can rescue us. Fighting from behind is the preserve of those destined for international glory. It is that never-say-die spirit - the ability to still believe in the darkest hour - that makes legends. Not everyone is capable of such resilience and faith. It takes grit to push hard until one bleeds.

Not everyone is capable of the intensity it takes to reverse ominous fortunes in sport or in life; but anyone can learn it. When life has dished up all the bitterness, leaving us marooned as we are this instant, the decision to make is simple: not easy.

Do we give up and lend credence to the mindset that South Africa is just another African country? Do we use the loss by our teams to confirm that for us there is no escaping our African curse, as if there ever was such a thing? Does the defeat of our cricket team justify the wilting of our resolve to fight on as a nation?

The alternative in this no-win situation is to invoke the spirit of our ancestors. Examples abound in Africa; politics, business, culture, spirituality and - yes - sports, that we can rely on to re-energise ourselves.

Until the next edition of these respective world cup tournaments, we belong with the vanquished. We lost disgracefully on the world stage; but we are South African - not losers. We fight back, always!

* Kgomoeswana is the author and director of Africa is Open for Business.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.