Khaya Dlanga

Support the Boer, support the Bulls

2010-05-25 07:50

When the Afrikaners invaded Soweto it was not the sight the Boeremag had hoped for.

Who would have thought that we would see so many white people in the middle of Soweto? Not just there, but there willingly and without guns. This was possibly one of the greatest demonstrations of unity since Nelson Mandela walked in Ellis Park wearing a green number six jersey and Afrikaners shouting, “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!” At the time they didn’t know that it would have been more appropriate to have shouted, “Madiba! Madiba! Madiba!” Madiba Magic.

We all know the result of that day. We still have the image of Joel Stransky’s drop kick which sank the hearts of the All Blacks, the chokers of international rugby. We remember that by wearing that Springbok jersey, Madiba single-handedly ended the debate that had raged for some time: that the Springbok emblem should be terminated because it represented apartheid.

The last time we saw that many white people in Soweto was in the era of the Casspirs. The times they are a changing. Sixteen years ago, blacks were throwing rocks at the indestructible and much feared yellow machine.

This time there was no fear. No rocks. No teargas. No mistrust. If there was mistrust it was forgotten; it was time to be South African. Not to be black or white. But blue.

The Bulls playing a semi-final in the largest township in South Africa might have done more for rugby in that township than all the programmes that have been put there to encourage young black kids to take up rugby. I am not claiming that this was all that needed to be done, but as a symbol it was spot on. No one doubts that more needs to be done to add more great black faces to be part of the game in all spheres.

An unfamiliar audience

Orlando Stadium has seen countless clashes between the Soweto giants with black spectators; this time it had an unfamiliar audience. To the untrained eye Soweto would have appeared like any white neighbourhood. The number of melanin disadvantaged throngs in the stadium would have confirmed that. There are so many of them in this stadium, they must live here, the untrained eye would have assumed. They were a majority inside, plus they looked comfortable enough.

In the opening scene of the movie Invictus, the story of Nelson Mandela using rugby to unify the nation, we see two schools separated by a road. The black school poor and dilapidated, the children play soccer. On the other side of the road is a well-funded school with white boys playing rugby. We hear sirens from a distance and Nelson Mandela is being driven from prison in a Cressida and passes between the schools. The black children cheer while the white kids, led by their coach, are far from pleased.

Although black and white were divided on Saturday it was by choice not by force, unlike the movie. Orlando Stadium was filled with white people watching rugby and in a stadium not too far away, the melanin advantaged brothers and sisters were watching soccer, ironically, in a better stadium. Still, no one was resentful for we were witnessing something nobody thought was possible five years ago - a major rugby match in Soweto.

I saw many tweets with people declaring how proud they were to be South Africans on that day. There was much to be proud of. We opened a beautiful stadium. The world saw we were ready. The looming war that had been predicted between black and white after the death of Eugene Terre’blanche was long forgotten. Ebony and Ivory cheering in harmony in Soweto.

Indeed, it was good to be African. Ultimately that’s what we realised we are. I was left wondering if the Australians were still thinking that the World Cup would be shifted to their country.

However, we must be under no illusions that sporting events alone will unify us. What we must realise is that sport plays a huge role in lifting the mood of the nation. It should be one of the nation building tools. When Caster Semenya was insulted by the Australian press we were all up in arms. It didn’t matter what colour one was. She was one of ours.

Learn to be proud

Since the Bulls played in Soweto first, chances are the residents of Soweto will support them and not the Stormers. Support the Boer, Support the Bulls.

In just over two weeks we will host the greatest event on the planet. I know that we will do ourselves proud. We will come out of it richer as a people, but above all, I pray that we sustain the feelings when the last ball has been kicked, when the last football enthusiast has left the country, when the trophy has been hoisted, when Sepp Blatter has gone. I hope we realise what we can do when we stand together. That our pride does not fade with the memories of the world. I pray that South Africans learn to be proud every day.

Regardless of what happens on Saturday, the Super 14 champions will be a South African team, and will be crowned in Soweto. Bafana Bafana will do well to remember that most experts didn’t give the Springboks a chance in Afghanistan to win the World Cup in 1995. Nobody thought Bafana Bafana would win CAF in 1996, and most importantly, no one apart from a few in South Africa believed we would be ready for the FIFA World Cup.

I dare to make a bold statement. I believe Bafana is ready to lift the trophy. Yes, laugh. I’m sure you would have laughed five years ago if you were told a major rugby match would be held in Soweto.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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