There’s a reason South Africans beam with pride when the topic of rugby comes up. Those who have been selected to represent our country on the world stage in this sporting discipline have quite literally answered every call that we South Africans have asked of them.
In this article, we will discuss exactly how the Bokke have stepped up when we needed them the most. From winning the Rugby World Cup in 95’ to reaching the top of World Rugby Rankings for both the 15s and 7s formats in 2021, the Bokke have quite literally been an adhesive force to bond our nation.
1995 World Cup
Amid civil unrest within South Africa, the Springboks were reintroduced into the International Rugby fray in 1992, after spending a lengthy amount of time out in the shadows. Barring a number of tours scattered over decades, the Boks hadn’t had much experience playing against the likes of New Zealand and Australia on a regular basis, especially considering they had been left out of both the initial Rugby World Cup in 1987, as well as the second installment of the competition in 1991.
The Green and Gold’s reintroduction came in the form of a series of tests against then-world champions Australia, and as expected the Boks struggled over the series, losing all but one of their games to their bitter rivals.
With the odds stacked against them, the Boks went on a quest to become the number one rugby playing nation in the world, but not for clout or bragging rights, but because it was what South Africa needed.
After the development of a close friendship between Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela, it was clear that the way South Africa aimed to bring in the new system of governance was to win the Rugby World Cup, and in so doing, bring together a then broken nation.
And that’s just what they did. Game after game, they silenced critics and pundits as they went on their journey, beating the best rugby playing nations in the world, until they met the mighty New Zealand in the final, and beat them too.
And so they did it, the Bokke ushered in a new South Africa, a united South Africa, that was ready to tackle the injustices of the past together.
2007 World Cup
The Rugby World Cup scheduled to be held in France in 2007 saw South Africa stage a team that could have beaten anyone on their day. The likes of Jean De Villers and Jacques Fourie in midfield, Foruie Du Preez at scrum half, and loose forward trio that would make any team shake in their boots, Jake White’s men were certainly one of the favourites amongst the likes of New Zealand, Australia, England and hosts France.
The 2007 World Cup came at a time of immense financial strain for South Africans. The major economies of the world slowly began going into collapse, and more and more people around the world were losing their jobs, South Africans especially.
The Springboks tend to come together, and be the cause of much national pride when their country needs them.
And so again, the Bokke began their quest to reclaim the trophy they had won at home over a decade earlier. The Boks breezed through the group stages, and went on to meet England in the final, who they had faced and beaten in the group stages already.
Pundits, betting sites, and fans alike thought that after having beaten England so convincingly in the group, the Boks were bound to win the final, but if you know anything about rugby, you know that a final is an exceptionally cagey affair.
A back and forth game that was nearly turned upside down after an exceptional line break by the poms eventually saw the Bokke lifting their second World Cup title, giving South Africans hope and something to celebrate within the unsure financial and economic future.
South Africans needed a win, and the Boks were there to give them just that.
2019 World Cup
The 2019 Rugby World Cup was another installment of the Boks bringing the nation together, in a time where South Africans needed it most. With the appointment of the legendary Rassie Erasmus after a very successful career overseas, many people began becoming hopeful after what felt like a strange few years with a number of different coaches at the helm.
In 2019, a gender based violence epidemic was sweeping the country, as a bright and very illuminating spot light was shone on the matter when the life of UCT student Uyinene “Nene” Mrwetyana was tragically taken after she simply went to a post office by herself.
Once again, South Africa was divided, however this time, it was along the lines of gender. South Africans were again in need of some event to spark a feeling of unity and togetherness. The Bokke had already won the Rugby Championship, but the World Cup is a competition that comes with far more hype and excitement.
The Bokke began their World Cup quest against the All Blacks, but from the start, adding another World Cup to their name looked to be challenging as they succumbed to the mighty men from New Zealand. That aside however, the Bokke continued through the group stages, quarters and semis in spectacular fashion.
A fantastic English outfit that had claimed a win over the All Blacks were what stood in the way of South Africa becoming the only other country aside from New Zealand from winning the Rugby World Cup three times. In a spectacular display that felt far from “finals rugby”, the Bokke did it again, this time for the women of our nation.
In each of these occasions, South Africans have needed a reason to celebrate, bond, and overall, come together, and in each instance, the Bokke heeded the call, and went on to do the spectacular. South Africans have great love for the Springboks because they have filled us with hope and unity since they lifted the trophy in 95, and out country cannot wait for what the men in green and gold have in store.