Boks show we can be one if we try

The performance of captain Siya Kolisi and players like Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe in the tournament was a further kick in the teeth for racism, the writer says.
The performance of captain Siya Kolisi and players like Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe in the tournament was a further kick in the teeth for racism, the writer says.
Image: Getty Images

It is surely not an exaggeration to say this week it felt great to be South Africans.

From that moment in Japan last Saturday when it became clear that the national rugby team were beating England and were about to become Rugby World Cup champions again, South Africans began celebrating. It has been one long party since.

The victory parade that saw the Springboks tour Johannesburg and Pretoria to show off the Webb Ellis trophy demonstrated just how excited South Africans are about the victory.

People from all walks of life came out to celebrate, proving once again that - despite our numerous problems - there is such a thing as South Africanness.

Over the last week there have been a lot of debates over the meaning of the victory, with some claiming that it would "bring South Africans together" while others dismissed it as "irrelevant" to the majority of South Africans who remain without land and access to the economy.

Both sides are missing the point. Bringing South Africans together and breaking the barriers created by decades of apartheid and centuries of colonial oppression will take much more than a sporting victory.

It requires concerted political and economic action aimed at redressing past injustices and the creation of a more equal society. It is an effort that takes years, if not decades.

But this does not mean that the victory must be dismissed as irrelevant. It is a major milestone in our long walk to nationhood, one that exposes as a lie the racist belief that rugby is a "white man's sport" and that those black players who get selected to the national team are "token" players who do not deserve to wear the jersey.

The performance of captain Siya Kolisi and players like Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe in the tournament was a further kick in the teeth for racism.

That is why we celebrate the team. We do so well aware that SA remains one of the most unequal societies in the world and that much of that inequality is along racial lines. It is not sports that will put an end to this inequality. It is political action.

Let us celebrate the Springboks and, simultaneously, endeavour to build an SA where racial differences won't keep us from supporting our national teams.

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