In one of the most joyful moments in recent South African rugby history, there had to be someone who tried to spoil the moment.
Backs to the wall, and with virtually no hope of toppling the mighty All Blacks, the Springboks tackled, ran and scored their way to the most improbable 36-34 victory in Wellington.
They were all at sea in the previous two games against Argentina and Australia, which made the triumph at the Westpac Stadium all the more remarkable.
But then, TV viewers spotted the dreaded ‘driekleur’ in the stands. In the 64th minute, with an unusual camera angle, the old apartheid-era SA flag was seen, hung over the wall at one of the stadium entrances.
I found it quite odd that that particular camera angle was utilised – from behind the kicker Beauden Barrett, who was booting a penalty into touch.
Was it deliberate? Because as soon as that angle was shown, you could see the flag hanging… and it was a big one. Ironically, a security guard was stationed not far in front of it.
The camera then followed the ball into the stands, which brought the flag into much closer focus – you couldn’t miss it if you were a South African.
But almost immediately, the Freedom Cup was shown, quite close to the trophy. Coincidence? Surely not, almost as if to prove that South Africa had moved from an apartheid state to one where people are free.
Against the backdrop of that old flag, though, the beauty of the victory was even more significant.
A black Springbok captain, two tries being scored by a black wing, and the team singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika as the national anthem. How more anti-apartheid can you get than that?
So, to the misguided soul who thought he or she was making some point by bringing that flag to the Westpac Stadium – you failed, miserably.
As SA Rugby president Mark Alexander told IOL Sport, “We can state categorically that it’s not what this Bok team stands for”.
And neither does New Zealand, it seems.
Firstly, the Westpac Stadium CEO Shane Harmon got the people to remove the flag after complaints from South Africans on social media, and then Kiwi rugby commentator Tony Johnson denounced the presence of the flag.
“To the people who brought that flag into our stadium: Either you get rid of it, or you think about going and living somewhere else. That flag is a symbol of a regime that no longer exists. And if you believe in what that flag represents, well, I’m not sure we want you in this country,” Johnson said on New Zealand TV.
“You’ve caused so much embarrassment to people in South Africa. It is a really bad thing that you have done.”
Good on you, Tony.