South Africans woke up in a jubilant mood and with some sore heads on Sunday, basking in the glory of back-to-back Rugby World Cup wins following their nail-biting 12-11 victory over old foes New Zealand in the 2023 final in Paris.
Rugby arguably means more in South Africa than any other nation in the world as a unifying force between people of all races, and with the power to lift those with talent out of a life of poverty.
Their record fourth World Cup victory from the eight tournaments they have played was won the hard way, and with no shortage of good fortune. But that has made the victory even sweeter for supporters.
“I think in the last World Cup (in 2019) we were quite ignorant about the game but this time we are all united. Black or white, we were all here just for one goal, to see the Springboks win,” said Sandile Ntu, a supporter watching the final at Johannesburg’s Nelson Mandela Square.
“It was a very close one. We did our best. We deserve it. I think South Africa obviously had the power over New Zealand in the game.”
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi epitomises the rags-to-riches potential of the game in the country, having risen from the small, impoverished township of Zwide in the Eastern Cape to become only the second man in history to lift the World Cup twice, following New Zealand’s Richie McCaw.
Kolisi is an icon for fans of all races and backgrounds, but especially those who can identify with his journey.
“Siya Kolisi did this for us,” said supporter Tshidiso Mnisi. “Everyone in the squad did it for us. We are together. We are proud as South Africans.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was in Paris for the final, had said he would consider a public holiday if the Springboks lifted the trophy.
Though there has been no further word on that, fans have taken it to heart.
“I feel very excited. Monday must be a holiday!” supporter Hendrick Ngobeni said.
Ramaphosa hailed the achievement of the team in the wake of their win.
“‘Stronger Together’ is a belief that came to life for Springbok supporters all around our country and continent, and the world,” he said in a statement.
“Siya Kolisi and the 2023 World Cup champions have gifted us an extraordinary and inspiring national achievement that lifts our hearts and hoists our flag even higher.”