Ahead of the Springboks’ opening international of the 2018 season at Ellis Park, there was a momentous gathering of mates in Johannesburg, all there to witness what they dubbed “Siya Kolisi Day”.
It was the inauguration of the first, black Bok skipper and, with it, the emancipation of a million voices.
Those voices express themselves in the form of AmaGwijo, an endless playlist of cultural and cerebral hymns.
They haven’t just sprouted up because there is now a black leader. Far from it. These songs, amagwijo, have been an integral part of Xhosa culture for generations.
They sing, and beautifully so.
They sing when they are happy, and the rhythm has gusto. They sing when times are tough, and the songs resonate with a touch of melancholy.
They sing, and the emergence of the Gwijo Squad, is intent on turning that ‘they’ into ‘we’.
Their gathering from Ellis Park has grown louder by the voice, and swelled by number.
At Loftus yesterday, they mobbed a section of the stadium, expropriating a patch of Loftus, their presence loud and infinitely proud.
And, let’s be clear. They, and any other Bok fan roused by this latest squad, are not there to just support certain members in the team.
Their eyes welled up at Pieter-Steph du Toit’s blubber in Wellington.
They have roared in bursting pride when Faf de Klerk or Cheslin Kolbe throw themselves at hulks twice their size.
And, of course, they thundered their approval when Aphiwe Dyantyi pulls out his Wakanda celebration.
They are part of an increasingly diverse Bok mob, and the team and Saru have embraced their unique ‘gees’.
Their gospel is now being shared around the world, and drawing more and more locals – of all races – towards them.
Their constant chorus harks back to schoolboy rugby, and it’s tradition of war cries. There is a tribalism there, but it is not an exclusively Xhosa clique. Everyone is welcome.
Wozani, nonke (come, all of you) – just bring your most patriotic voices. The future is here, and it’s all colours of the rainbow nation.