PRETORIA – Not even the most ardent of believers or vehement naysayers would have predicted such a weekend for South African rugby.
It was an emotional and historic day at Ellis Park on Saturday as Siya Kolisi led the Springbok team, bringing to life a dream that millions of black South Africans never thought they would experience in their lifetime.
That moment when Kolisi ran onto the lush turf at South African rugby’s spiritual home was not only the turning point for the game itself but it a poignant coming of age story for a sport that must embrace the millions of black people that have for decades felt purposefully excluded.
While Ellis Park was not at its capacity, the 55 000 voices that belted out the national anthem did so with the gusto of the 55 million people that make up this country.
In an instant, it healed the wounds of the past and surged the game into the future with the confidence that it might become mighty again.
The pockets of traditional Xhosa songs, known asamagwijo (songs of the people), were just as loud at times but the goosebump inducing songs became louder as the Springboks valiantly fought back from being down 24-3 and well on their way to a record defeat on home soil by the English.
In the end, it was the unrelenting noise of amagwijo that made the Springboks win all the more sweeter as the boisterous group of black supporters, led by Chulumanco Macingwana, ululated and sang the praises by name of their new Springbok heroes as they made their way around the stadium thanking the crowd.
This was a new dawn in South African rugby and one that Saru has to bottle up and run with.
This was the new face of Springbok rugby on the field and in the stands and the sweet sound of amagwijo was an affirmation that the times have certainly changed for Bok rugby ... for the better.
Saru must capitalise on the sentiments of Saturday - from Kolisi’s historic moment as the first black captain of the Boks to that Wakanda-styled celebration done by wing Aphiwe Dyantyi after scoring his try to the assured look on Sbu Nkosi’s face after scoring his brace of tries to finally the emotions of all South Africa’s races while singing the national anthem and the everlasting songs of amagwijo that lasted long into the Ellis Park evening.
This was the transformation that Saru and government have long been talking about but have never been able to achieve.
It was an inspiring moment that will ignite hope amongst millions of children, black and white, rich or poor, to take up the game and make sure it grows beyond the minds of the archaic and prejudiced individuals that claim to be the custodians of the game.
The weekend was made even sweeter by the Springbok Sevens side unlikely retention of the HSBC World Sevens Series title.
It was unlikely title victory because Fiji had the crown in their hands until the last game of the series but were dumped out of the cup competition by England in the quarter-finals, which gave the Blitzbokke a glimmer of hope.
It was that hope that Neil Powell’s men held onto and made good of as they went on to beat England in the final in Paris to clinch the world championship by the slimmest of margins - two points to be exact.
And at the heart of the Blitzbokke’s success is how they have embraced amagwijo as their songs of choice, win or lose.
For a good while now, the Blitzbokke have been the poster boys of what meaningful transformation can do to the sport of rugby and they’ve done so while winning and conquering the world.
The time of change has come for Saru and their affiliates in the franchises and unions.
There is no better time than now to change the face of South African rugby and return the country back to the top.
And this feeling of change and being on top of the world will last long into our lifetime as long as they use this new energy, just like amagwijo did at Ellis Park on Saturday and in Paris on Sunday.