Analysis  >  Friday Briefing: South Africa, rugby and what a nation expects

Friday Briefing

Siya's Springboks, an expectant nation and a contested sport

The whole country – or at least, most of the country – is waiting with bated breath for 11:00 on Saturday when Siya's Springboks will take the field to challenge the might English for world rugby supremacy. When we unite to sing the national anthem, it will be a rare moment of national unity in a country suffering under poor governance, the remnants of state capture and a history that seems will never let go of us. But for 80 minutes most of us will be rooting for the team crafted by two sons of the Eastern Cape, Johan "Rassie" Erasmus and his captain, Siyamthanda Kolisi.

Rugby is contested terrain, and has always been. It's a political sport as much as a collision sport and its history is fraught with division and healing. 

In this week's Friday Briefing former president Nelson Mandela's right-hand woman Zelda la Grange pens a heartfelt letter to Madiba, telling him what has happened in his country since his departure in 2013. Mayihlome Tshwete tempers the national exuberance by reminding Kolisi that winning the World Cup won't change the country. Author Jeremy Daniel, who wrote the recently published biography about Kolisi, writes about the importance of the first black Bok captain and I delve into how rugger and politics have always been intertwined.

Hie' kom die Bokke!


Pieter du Toit 

Nelson Mandela Francois Pienaar

Zelda la Grange to Madiba: 'I can hear your voice loud and clear…'

We are on the eve of the Rugby World Cup in Tokyo, Japan. Most South Africans have rallied behind our team the past six weeks. The pressure is on. People are stocking up for the match on Saturday like it's the 1994 elections. Your words ring true. Sport has the power to unite people like no other event. We are ready. Ke Nako. But we cannot expect to win if we secretly believe we are incapable or undeserving of the title, as you warned.



Mayihlome Tshwete to Siya Kolisi: 'Winning the trophy won't change things'

What you will do is play a sport of 80 minutes on a 107m x 72m pitch of grass. With all the passion, you will attempt to score more points than your opponents… simple. All we want from you is your best; what we will take from that is powerful possibilities. Possibilities that, with all of our challenges and differences, we can set shared objectives and accomplish them. Possibilities that we need not be confined to our past.



Pieter du Toit

Springbok rugby has always been contested terrain, ever since the first team toured to Britain, through the years of isolation and amid growing pains associated with a new democracy. Siya Kolisi and his team carry much more history on their shoulders than just heartwarming victories and shattering defeats 


FUKUROI, JAPAN - OCTOBER 04: Siya Kolisi of South

Siya, The Movie: How will it end?

A young screenwriter finds himself in an elevator with a powerful Hollywood executive, who grants him two minutes to make his movie pitch. This is the moment he's been dreaming about, so he launches into Act 1 as the elevator doors close. He tells the true story of a young kid, born into abject poverty who falls in love with the game of rugby as a young child when the Springboks win the 1995 World Cup. Beating all the odds, he earns himself a place at an elite rugby school, graduates and gets signed by the team he supports, and marries the girl of his dreams.


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