South Africa’s Springboks play for much more than medals around their necks and will have the hopes and dreams of 62 million compatriots on their shoulders when they take on New Zealand in the World Cup final in Paris on Saturday.
Rugby was once viewed as the sport of the white Afrikaner under Apartheid but has grown a passionate following among South Africans of all races since the country lifted their maiden World Cup in 1995.
The appointment of a first black captain in Siya Kolisi in 2018 has also helped as both South Africa and New Zealand go in search of a record fourth title this weekend.
“People can relate to this team, it doesn’t matter what your story is, there is someone in this team that will represent you,” Kolisi told the BBC Rugby Union Daily podcast.
“I have my motives for playing and the guy next to me might have different ones. But the thing that brings us together is the 62 million people of our country.
“South Africans go through a lot of different challenges and one thing we can control is how they feel, their mood. We can put a smile on their face.
“It is not always about winning, it is the effort that we put out there, it is how we carry ourselves on and off the field. It is not giving up on the field when you want to.”
Kolisi said his own difficult upbringing had given him perspective on what it means to wear the Springbok jersey.
“You keep going because somewhere there is a little boy who was in the same position as you were and it is my responsibility to use this platform to give everything I can.
“When I was in that position, when I didn’t have anything to eat, or shoes to go to school, I would have given everything to be here.
“Now it is about (me) showing the positive and leaving this jersey in a better position so that the next guy knows what they need to do to be a Springbok.”
Many were killed in the fight against Apartheid and, in turn, for the Springboks to have a black captain and that weighs heavy on Kolisi.
“So many people lost their lives for me to be free, so that I can put on this jersey. So for me to not give my best would be a betrayal of them,” he said.
World Cup fever has hit South Africa with young and old, rich and poor finding ways to watch the Springboks.
“Malls have been opened in the middle of the night so people can watch (for free). Screens have been put on the side of the road for homeless people to watch.
“That is what this team means to South Africa,” Kolisi said.