Rugby World Cup ... the winners and the losers

SOUTH Africa’s cup has been running overwith joy after the Springboks won the WebbEllis trophy in France. | Eugene Hoshiko

SOUTH Africa’s cup has been running overwith joy after the Springboks won the WebbEllis trophy in France. | Eugene Hoshiko

Published Nov 6, 2023


Durban — Many South Africans marvelled at how the racially mixed Springbok team worked in tandem to successfully slay mighty opponents of the world on French battlegrounds and eventually lifted the Rugby World Cup.

It’s been difficult since last Saturday’s triumph in the final against the All Blacks in Paris to dim the afterglow.

Celebrations continued this week, as thousands of South Africans lined the streets in some cities to welcome home their heroes, who paraded with the coveted William Webb Ellis Cup, won for a record fourth time.

Experts roundly agreed that the Springboks’ victory was immense for nation-building, but was also a reminder to government and political heads about the value of good leadership and teamwork.

However, some asked, apart from the temporary “psychological lift”, how will it tangibly benefit the man on the street facing daily hardships?

In a radio interview, former Springbok player, Joel Stransky, who booted the country to its first World Cup win in 1995, also against the New Zealanders, applauded the class of 2023 for their love for each other, courage and fight in adverse conditions.

Stransky paid tribute to Siya Kolisi’s captaincy and leadership skills.

“A wonderful man (Kolisi) and an example for us South Africans to follow,” said Stransky.

Thando Manana, another former Springbok, asked that Rassie Erasmus, the director of rugby, also be credited for his boldness in appointing Kolisi captain in 2018, when he coached the team.

“Rassie lost a lot of friends and people doubted that decision, but the last six years has been something special with back-to-back World Cup wins,” said Manana.

William Gumede, an associate professor for the school of governance at Wits University, said the country was desperate for a good news story.

“The win has energised the country after having to endure power outages, an economy on the decline, indifferent political leadership … people felt hopeless.”

Gumede believed the latest success was bigger than 1995 in bringing the country together.

“The team was a tight unit with players from across races. For the first time, rugby has cut across all communities in a deep and meaningful way, something we never got from political leaders for decades. And, it was not about colour or language, just South Africans, like what the Constitution says Project SA is all about.”

Dr Lubna Nadvi, a political scientist in UKZN’s school of social sciences said the Springboks showed how people came from different backgrounds to take the country forward.

“The country is in dire straits with collapsing infrastructure, corruption and crime. Our sports teams have shown what can be done with good leadership.”

Nadvi noted that jobs for pals and nepotism ultimately led to the country suffering.

“The rugby guys showed us they had a coach who played certain players in certain games because they had the requisite skills.

“Likewise, public servants must be appropriately skilled and competent and through teamwork goals can be achieved, but that is not the case.

“Regardless of the senselessness that exists at home, the team put in the extra effort and achieved. If only those in public office subscribed to Batho Pele principles instead of doing things for themselves only,” Nadvi said.

She said politicians preferred to polarise race groups for selfish purposes instead uniting the country. She believed the concept of nation building was a “myth” unless people made it a reality by working together.

Daniel Silke, the director of the Political Futures Consultancy, said the euphoria of the World Cup win lasted until Wednesday when Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana outlined the serious state of the country’s economy with his Mid-term Budget Speech.

“The feel-good factor of rugby provided us with a temporary distraction, which is something the politicians cannot provide. Wednesday was the real State of the Nation Address, not what president Cyril Ramaphosa delivered last Sunday.”

Silke agreed that sport had its place in creating a psychological lift but said the harsh reality was that it played “second fiddle” to the many challenges and living conditions South Africans endured daily.

Sunday Tribune