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Halala Amabokoboko! Pride of a nation in search of new meaning

They came from all parts of South Africa to welcome the team that brought home the William Webb Ellis Cup – the Springboks. And they came singing and dancing, flying flags and wearing the green and gold.

Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk arrived at the OR Tambo International Aiport, along with other teammates, on 5 November 2019 after their victory at the Rugby World Cup. Picture: EWN

They came from all parts of South Africa to greet the team that brought home the William Webb Ellis Cup – the Springboks. And they came singing and dancing.

Throngs of supporters flooded the arrivals hall at OR Tambo International to lay eyes on their heroes in green and gold who have brought them so much pride over the past few days and weeks.

For the Boks, it was the first taste of the virtual support they were receiving nationally, all the way across the world in Japan. The nation (or at least a microcosm of it) had united wearing green and gold, singing traditional songs and dancing side by side. It was the dream they had hoped to achieve 20 weeks ago, when this Boks team coached by Rassie Erasmus, began its World Cup journey. On Tuesday, they walked into this dream-like state as reality set in; that they had achieved what many believed was impossible. They beat the odds and put in the hard work to achieve one goal. Winning.

They arrived in installments. Rugby World Cup squads don’t travel light. Eventually, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus appeared. The two architects of South Africa’s success in Japan and the key levers in this new machine driving Springbok rugby were there to receive the warmth shown to them by South Africans from all walks of life.

The Springboks left for the Rugby World Cup at the end of August, more than two months ago. Early September saw the country’s women take a stand against gender violence. Later on, one of South Africa’s prized forwards Eben Etzebeth was accused of racism and assault. The incident reminded us of how divided South Africans still are along racial lines.

"We wanted to win it for South Africa. Without a doubt. It drove us. At half-time our chats were about rugby and the people back home. It wasn't even about the game plan," Erasmus explained. "Half of it was hard work, but the other half was you guys."

The Springboks left a South Africa in turmoil and returned to find a country that put aside its bickering for a moment to praise them for winning the Rugby World Cup. Many things are more important than rugby in South Africa, but the role of rugby players and indeed sportspeople is of national importance.

“We won because we wanted it a lot. The people here helped us a lot. It gave us a reason to fight harder. We knew back home things were not going well, and the coach reminded us that we have a privilege. We knew it was more than our personal gain we were playing for. It was for the country,” Kolisi told the media upon arriving.

If we could bottle this enthusiasm and support the entrepreneur in accessing the system in order to sell it, we could have a national currency built on trust, unity and hard work. These were the qualities Kolisi and Erasmus agreed upon, the foundation of their success. They both trusted each other, united the team and put in the hard work to achieve this level of success.

Kolisi's dad was there at the media conference, looking on with tired, but proud eyes. It was a father's dream come true, along with a nation's.

"I am very proud right now. I was happy to have my dad there. It's one of those things. It was my dad's dream to take me to all these places around the world, but he didn't have the means. That's why I"m so grateful for rugby. It allows me to do such things. I'm proud he could be there to share the moment. The team loves him, and they all welcomed him," Kolisi said.

Kolisi, Erasmus and the rest of the batch entered the arrivals hall on a wave of human arms clambering to get a shot of them, to touch them or even to catch a glimpse. Erasmus looked shell shocked, Kolisi pleasantly surprised as the flashlights bounced off his broad grin.

It was a moment to savour for more reasons than two men, more than the 31-man squad, or the support staff. This time it was about all South Africans and will be so for a while yet, as the Rugby World Cup winners embark on a countrywide trophy tour to witness their impact on the entire nation.

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