Let's not waste the Kolisi magic

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.

It was not quite the much-trumpeted Madiba Magic but it still came close to reminding us South Africans that there is much more that unites us as a nation than that which divides us.

The founding father of our democracy, Nelson Mandela, knew the potent power of sport to unite the people while helping salve the painful past.

The proverbial baton was picked up by one Phakama Siyamthanda Kolisi, in every sense the quintessential new South African sports hero, uniting his people across the artificial divisions inspired by race and racial supremacy.

Kolisi captained the Springboks - the senior national rugby side - to a famous victory over England in Johannesburg on Saturday. It was a historic moment this, a black man leading the Bokke out the tunnel to thunderous applause from the crowd.

The last time similar scenes were seen was when Mandela pulled off a major nation-building exercise by donning then Springbok captain Francois Pienaar's jersey at the 1995 World Cup final at the same venue.

It was a spirit we needed to capture and bottle for future use. But the opportunity was lost to make rugby the game of the people as a whole and not the few.

Those who sought to make the sport stay forever out of the reach of the majority of the people in this country were succeeding, somewhat. But the folly of trying to block the winds of change has to be called out for what it is.

Kolisi's elevation is important in many ways, chief among which is the promise it holds for any child - especially those of a darker hue - dreaming of playing test rugby someday, that it is not impossible.

As we ride on the wave of euphoria around Kolisi we dare not take our eye off the proverbial ball, lest we mishandle an inviting opportunity to forge ahead as a nation united in our diversity.

We dare not leave those who may have views similar to those of the late rugby supremo Louis Luyt and those around him who saw fit to spit on the hand of comradeship and reconciliation extended by Mandela.

Many would caution - rightly so - against being overly excited at a sport that is still grappling with this race thing. It is time the spectre of racism is completely annihilated from rugby.

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