For all the disgrace of our past South Africa is also famous as a nation brought together by sport. Hollywood brought you Invictus as evidence of this. The 2010 Fifa Football World Cup proved it again. Chad Le Clos’s dad represents all of us in how sport makes us feel: excited, united, proud. Everyone who dons the green and gold belong to us. They are our champions and we support them.
I was reminded of this on Saturday 27 Sept when the Springboks took on the Wallabies at Newlands (a South African homeground). Most of us had been speaking about the clash for days. We discussed tactics and team strategy and our hearts went out the players who had been injured in the previous test. We are their supporters and they belong to us. We care deeply about them.
I wore my Springbok jersey on Friday as did thousands of my country people. Thousands more wore their jerseys on Saturday. A nation united with all our hopes and happiness pinned on a team of 15 big men and their replacements on the bench.
I’ve always been a keen rugby supporter and while I can’t pretend to know much about tactics I do know where the player’s strength and weaknesses lie. I know what makes them a strong team and a remarkable bunch of people.
There was some public scrappiness a few days before the test because Oupa Mahoje was going to be in the starting line-up. People were speculating on whether he had earned his spot or if he was just a quota player. To those people all I can say is that you clearly don’t understand team sport and team players and frankly he should have been offered a chance a while ago. He isn’t quite number one is his position but he plays with heart and we were lucky that we could call on him when we needed a replacement. Fortunately the whole things seemed to blow over by game day.
And so the crowds packed into Newlands and our boys stood alongside the Aussies to mark the start of another 80 minutes of our national pastime. And what an 80 minutes it was.
It was a tough, hard, physical and stressful game. Minor and some stupid errors, and the Aussies defending like warriors had us on the back foot almost most of the game. I watched my boys play hard and fast and still we could not move them. The stadium grew quiet as everyone started wondering if we could pull it off. My husband had predicted that we would win by 20 points. For about 60 minutes it was in doubt whether we would even win. It would have been bad. Losing to the Aussies on home soil when your team in clearly working hard would have been heart breaking. The newer and younger guns in the likes of Serffontein, Coetsee and Hendriks were playing their guts out and yet we were behind.
And then, a few things changed. Some veteran replacements came on, the ref warned the Aussies of infringements, Lambie converted a penalty to put us one point ahead and the crowd got excited again. Newlands’ atmosphere changed and the game got new gusto and suddenly we were a dominant team. Balls went to hand. Leaps were made over tacklers. Balls were legitimately stolen and the crowd kept singing and chanting.
We scored three tries in the last four minutes. A feat achieved because new and experienced worked together. Talents and enthusiasm pooled together and gave every player the burst they needed. It was rugby at its finest.
The whistle blew and we had done all we had set out to do and what the nation had hoped for. Jubilation ensues to this moment and we’ll talk about this one for years to come. No matter who you are in South Africa you will know about this because it’s important that we stood and conquered together.