It is sad when a party loses talented people. It is sadder when one has worked for decades to build a party to see it teetering on the brink of a major setback.
Siya Kolisi (Getty Images)
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Earlier this year, I wrote about how I bought my 5-year-old an original Proteas supporter’s shirt at the start of the Cricket World Cup. The lesson was not in supporting a winning team, but in instilling in him a patriotism and loyalty, subscribing to a national pride.
It followed with reason then that at the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, we were kitted up and raring to go. Despite having his young heart broken by his first World Cup experience, he threw himself into this one with gusto and unrestricted enthusiasm. The little guy learnt the name of every Bok player, he feverishly collected the full pack of supporter’s cards, sang the national anthem at the start of every game and watched just about every single match of the tournament. It was inconsequential to him if he was watching Georgia or Canada or Tonga. In his imaginary playground games, he is always the Springboks.
Experiencing a World Cup, and a victorious one at that, vicariously through my five-year-old son was eye-opening for me. Everything was a novelty. Every game an opportunity to learn. The sport was distilled into its simplest form – one team needed more points than the other to win. It didn’t matter who played with more flair or finesse. All that was of consequence was who had more points on the board at the end of eighty minutes.
Watching the final with him, I was completely caught up in the sentiment of the moment. I literally shed tears as I watched Lukhanyo Am selflessly and with unquestionable confidence pass the ball to Makazole Mapimpi for a match winning try. And then again, when Cheslin Kolbe danced around Owen Farrell to cross the line in a spectacular solo score. I wasn’t emotional because we were going to win, but because of the beautiful narrative of the moment.
My son and I were witnessing a fully transformed, diverse and unified national team about to become world champions. We were #StrongerTogether.
We were all swept up by the narrative. The idea of a rainbow nation reborn. The story of our first black captain Siya Kolisi, who didn’t know where his next meal was coming from as a boy in the township going on to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy. The story of Mapimpi - who had to walk 10km to school in the rural Eastern Cape, his mother having died in a car accident, his sister from a brain illness and his brother after being electrocuted - being raised aloft by his teammates.
The morning after the day before, myself and many others shared Andy Bull’s excellent piece of sports journalism in The Guardian about how South Africa’s triumphant side simply had more to play for than England.
"If there has been a theme of the World Cup, a lesson for us all to take from these long seven weeks, it is this: the game sometimes runs on strange and powerful currents. It is not necessarily the sharpest, smartest, fittest, fastest or strongest team that wins, but the one who wants it most.
"Listening to South Africa’s captain Siya Kolisi, and coach Rassie Erasmus, talk about what this victory meant in the minutes after they had won it, you began to understand exactly what England were up against and the way the Springboks were thinking about it, England had lost the match before it even began,” wrote Bull.
I fully bought into this belief. As a country, with all our problems and recent negativity, we were so desperate for a beautiful moment to renew our patriotism. After a decade of state capture, the Moody’s review, depressing jobs numbers, crime, poverty, loadshedding and all round bad news, we were aching to change the narrative. But as the emotion dissipated and I had a moment to reflect, the sports fan in me reconsidered what had happened.
South Africa had a better strategy, played better rugby and got more points on the board than England. We were the better rugby team on the day. At the highest level of professional sport, you need emotion and passion and pride. But you also need talent, skill and tactics. You need a plan and sensibility. Every team is desperate to win but the one that plays better, will.
That’s exactly what happened on Saturday. Erasmus has been a remarkable tactician and his team has executed his plan. When everyone was complaining about Faf’s box kicks and questioning what Willie was doing in the starting fifteen, continued on his path and his players carried out his orders. In the final, he shook up his game plan and it payed off. We got more points on the board than England. Twenty more, in fact.
The most powerful lesson my son could learn, and that we could learn as a country, was that we need passion and drive and emotion, but we also need to execute the plan and fulfil the strategy if we are going to win.
As a country, we have the emotion of the "new dawn" and the #ImStaying movement. We all want to succeed and see the country not be downgraded, for employment to rise and for Eskom to keep the lights on. We want our GDP to grow and for investors to put their faith and their money in our country. None of us want South Africa to fail.
We need a Rassie plan to win this game and we need to execute that plan. Cyril Ramaphosa was in Yokohama International Stadium to lift the Webb Ellis trophy. Now he needs to carry on that momentum and take decisive action. It’s not enough to promise to prosecute the corrupt, to commit to creating jobs, to assure the country that the lights will stay on, to tell us that you are the best placed to lead us. You have to act on the plan and execute. We need action. Pride, patriotism and emotion are simply not enough.
Are you ready to do what it takes?
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