I am not a big rugby fan but what an experience it was at home on a warm Saturday afternoon to watch Springboks beat England at the final of the 2019 World Rugby Cup. The Boks won the game 32-12. Not many people gave South Africa a chance in the final after England demolished New Zealand in the Semi Finals. England were the overwhelming favourites going into the final and seemed confident enough.
However, the Boks brought their A game to the final game of the tournament while England were just about outplayed in all aspects of the game. The Springboks were more powerful, faster and more disciplined throughout the game.
As the players sang along to the national anthem before the game, you could sense the immensity of the occasion. Such was the intensity displayed by captain Siya Kolisi and Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira. They were so psyched up for the game. There were ready for the occasion.
Making history, Siya Kolisi
It was the first Springbok side to be captained by a black person, Siya Kolisi. There must have been huge pressure on him but he did not disappoint as a leader. Together with coach Rasie Erasmus, they led their team to famous victory which will no doubt rank alongside 1995 and 2007 as most memorable victories at the Rugby World Cup.
The man with dancing feet
What a beauty to watch Cheslin Kolbe, the magician, the man with the dancing feet as the commentators referred to him. Towards the end of the game, he got the ball on the right wing, did a side step to lose some England players before accelerating down the lie to score a famous try.
Form on the day is what really counts
The game was a reminder that what really counts on the day is your form and how badly you want to win it. Your reputation and the statistics or what the bookies say it is not enough. You actually need to deliver. It your ability to play your very best on the day and to make the most of your chances. That matters more than anything else.
The Springboks played with incredible tenacity and won many penalties which were easily converted by Andre Pollard who was ice cool under pressure.
A few lessons I picked up during this game.
Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM)
If you go back to 2018, the Springboks were sitting on a winning percentage of just 50 percent and a year away from the World Cup. Could they turn things around fast enough? This was the question. That is certainly not what you would expect from a serious contender to the World Cup. However, this did not discourage the team. They kept working together and everyone was doing their bit to make the dream a reality. You may have your differences but let that not separate you. Celebrate your strengths and bring those together achieving amazing synergies.
Always believe in yourself no matter what
After the Springboks lost their opening game to All Blacks, there was surely no way they were going to even think of winning the tournament. I mean, what were their chances after such a start? Always believe in yourself no matter what. It was a very long road after losing that opening group match and the Boks walked all the way with incredible self belief and faith in one another.
There is always a first time.
This was the first Springbok team captained by a black man, Siya Kolisi. This was the first time a team has won the Rugby World Cup after losing a group game. No other team in history had never won the Webb Ellis Cup after losing a group match. This achievement at the 2019 World Cup was a first for South Africa. South Africa was also the first African nation to win the World Rugby Cup 3 times. The only other country to have won the World Cup 3 times is New Zealand. There is always a first time for everything. Do not be afraid of history.
Dynamite comes in small packages
Two players in the South African lineup, Cheslin Kolbe and Faf De Klerk reminded me that dynamite comes in small packages. Both players were highly effective in the game and made huge contributions in the centre of the game, in the scrum and on the wings where Kolbe was always dangerous with his explosive pace.
To see grown men sink to their knees or overwhelmed with emotion at the end of the game showed me how much this game meant to them. Some of the players have carried this vision for many many years and today it became a reality. Kolisi spoke about how he watched the Rugby World Cup from a tavern because they did not have a television. Today he lifted the Webb Ellis Cup as a winner. Ladies and Gentlemen, dreams can come true.
As a nation South Africa faces many challenges and winning the Rugby World Cup could not have come at a better time. It was also a reminder of the greatness that lies within Africa, within South Africa. May the people of this nation always remember that What lies behind South Africa and what lies before South Africa are small matters compared to what lies within South Africa.
Halala South Africa! Halala Amabokoboko, Halala!!
EDITS: Reference to New Zealand being in the Northern Hemisphere have been removed. It was previously stated that South Africa was the first country in the Southern Hemisphere to win the World Cup three times. New Zealand and South Africa are both in the Southern Hemispheres. Thank you Terence for the edits.