FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: What the Boks can teach SA as a nation


News that Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe had reportedly admitted to paying R70,000 to ensure that a Sunday newspaper did not publish a story about his alleged sex escapades nearly distracted South Africa from one big and rare positive: being in the finals of a major international sports tournament.

I readily accept that not everyone is interested in rugby (or sport, for that matter) and probably believe that the Mantashe issue is far more important for our political morals and ethics as a nation and for the media industry.

I sympathise, but it will be at least another four years before South Africa is in a position similar to the one where the Springboks are 80 minutes away from being crowned the rugby world champions. It is a big deal.

It is such a big a deal that we need to start reflecting on how we find ourselves where we are in a position to achieve this great feat. The operative phrase here is: placing ourselves in a position to achieve what we hopefully will achieve come Saturday.

It is not just about winning. Of course, winning is better, but intentionally creating a winning culture is best. If we do not know how we got the gong, we will be unlikely to repeat the feat.

The Boks are South Africa’s most successful national team. The match against England will be the third final between the two and hopefully, it will be three out of three wins for us.

Yet the Boks keep getting more criticism than they deserve. They are seen as either too transformed, or not transformed enough.

Some insist on imposing the legacy of apartheid on the team. Others continue thinking that the black players in the team and appointing Siya Kolisi as captain are just window-dressing measures given to placate political principalities.

All this takes away from what the Boks have achieved. They have created a template for how we as a nation can be in a position to win.

They have weathered the criticism from all the extremes of society. They have ignored all those who believe that rugby belongs to a particular group of South Africans and indifferent to those who keep wanting the present team to account for the sins of the past.

They have identified talent early and helped nurture it, as personified by Kolisi’s personal story.

Imagine if the public service and corporate South Africa were to replicate the Bok model. Instead of thinking that business or government was for one group, it tapped into the vast resource of talent that is in black and white, men and women.

Think about where we would be if organisations recognised talent and did all they could to ensure that it developed into its full potential, instead of the present system where the country loses its most talented young (black, white and women) because of the misapplication of affirmative action, or because of no appreciation for why we need redress.

As in sport, leaving out a considerable percentage of your population from your talent pool can only lead to a scotosis of sorts, be it on the sporting pitch or in the boardroom.

It has been said before, including by colleagues on this platform, that South Africa needs this win. I concur, but add that South Africa needs to know how it won more than it needs to win, because this might show us how to stop losing in every other area of our national life.

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.