South Africa: Rugby World Champions
South African National Union Rugby Team, popularly known as Springboks, became the 2019 World Rugby Champion vanquishing England 32–12 in a scintillating game at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in front of 1.6 million plus rugby lovers in Yokohama International Stadium in Japan, on the 2nd of November 2019. Interestingly, this is South Africa’s third World Cup title. Springboks won the first World Cup title in 1995. And since then, the Springboks have lifted the Rugby World Cup every 12 years in 2007 and now in 2019.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup title is special, because South African team Captain Siya Kolisi became the ‘First Black Captain’ to lift the Rugby World Cup for the very first time in history. The Rugby World Cup was instituted way back in 1987. South Africa was boycotted in the first two World Cups, because of anti-apartheid. The Springboks won the 1995 Rugby World Cup in their debut appearance. In the finals, Springboks defeated the All Blacks 15–12, which is still remembered as the greatest moments in South African sporting history post-apartheid.
The South African Captain Siya Kolisi had never even dared to dream as a young lad of 16, when South Africa won the second Rugby World Cup title in 2007, to play for Springboks, forget captaining the team. He revealed after the win, “When I was a kid, there's no way I would have dreamt of being Springboks Captain. We can achieve anything, if we work together as one!” The transformation of a 16-year lad to winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup for South Africa, Siya Kolisi’s success is truly inspiring and destine.
All over the nation, the South Africans celebrated ecstatically the third title under Siya Kolisi dancing in sheer joy and happiness, because he was the first black Captain, who has achieved this stupendous feat for all of them. The win was also emotional in many aspects. Springboks’ fans were vocal about their celebration stating this magnificent win has united their nation and meant a lot to them. Siya Kolisi thanked the whole nation along with the Japanese fans, who thronged to enjoy the game with pumping adrenaline.
In the year 2018, Siya Kolisi became the first black player to be appointed as the Captain of Springboks. Wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe played a significant role in South Africa’s win, along with fly-half Handre Pollard’s goal kick. Pollard kicked 22 points to make his indomitable side win 32–12. England’s team was simply out of form committing a number of mistakes to lose the final. By half-time, the Springboks were leading 12–6 with Pollard kicking four penalties. The British players committed a number of handling errors during their quest, which cost them the world title.
The Springboks did not give an inch to the English players ever after leading 18–12. England struggled hard as the South African increased their momentum to pressure them. In the 66th minute, Mapimpi broke clear, chipped ahead to collect the ball back from Lukhanyo Am and recalled winger Kolbe to score their first try in three World Cup finals. The stadium erupted in excitement to see the favourite team win the 2019 Rugby World Cup deservedly.
From 1987 to 2019, only 4 countries have lifted the Rugby World Cup. The All Blacks New Zealand won the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and repeated their performance in 2011 and 2015. Australia has won the World Cup twice in 1991 and 1999. South Africa equalled New Zealand’s three World Cup wins. England is the fourth nation to have won the World Cup in 2003.
The Springboks became the first team to lose a game in the pool stage against New Zealand and bounce back to lift the title. It is very inspiring and fascinating to recollect Siya Kolisi’s journey from being a ‘nobody’ from Zwide town to the Captain of the World Cup-winning South African Rugby team. Kolisi’s family was so poor that they did not even own a television, when he was growing up. Destined to achieve greatness, Siya Kolisi is all over the television today worldwide.
The 2nd of November 2019 will always remain an unforgettable night for the South Africans as Siya Kolisi held the glistening gold Webb Ellis Trophy aloft in front of his father Fezakele. Siya’ mother Phakama must be very proud of his son’s magnificent victory in heaven. He lost his mother at the age of 15. His father had never travelled outside of South Africa before the World Cup final. The moment was charged with emotions, past remembrance, glory, joy, ecstasy and a sigh of relief that, it is all over!
Coach Rassie Erasmus had stated before the final, “This was never about the Rugby. This was about a team uniting a nation and giving it hope.” Siya Kolisi enthused after the win, “It is really special and it was more than just a game for us. We are really grateful to have our families here and all I want to do is to inspire my kids and every other kid in South Africa.
I never dreamed of a day like this at all. When I was a kid, all I was thinking about was getting my next meal. A lot of us in South Africa just need an opportunity and there are so many untold stories. I'm hoping that we have just given people a bit of hope to pull together as a country to make it better.” This speaks everything about South Africa’s success at the 2019 Rugby World cup.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa joined the celebration with the team wearing South African green jersey. The 2019 South African team members join the proud winners of the 1995 and 2007 to write a new leaf in golden letters in nation’s successful history. Going back in history, in the year 1995, it was South Africa’s first black President Nelson Mandela awarding the 1995 Rugby World Cup trophy to Springboks Captain Francois Pienaar.
Springboks have been dominated with white players for so long. A new beginning has seen the rise of Springboks first black Captain lifting the Rugby World Cup for the whole world to notice. Siya Kolisi elucidates, “Since I have been alive, I have never seen South Africa like this. With all the challenges we have, the Coach said to us that we are not playing for ourselves any more. We are playing for the people back home. That is what we wanted to do today.”
Right from the word go, the Springboks looked dominant among all the teams participating at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. They were strong at the scrum and breakdown as compared to other teams. Under Coach Rassie Erasmus and Captain Siya Kolisi, the team gelled in perfect unison to ultimately emerge as the ultimate winner. A year ago, the springboks were ranked 7th in the World. It was their lowest rank ever. After the World Cup win, the Springboks are ranked the World No. 1!
Handre Pollard was the highest scorer for South Africa, scoring 22 of the 32 points from six penalties. After the match, he enthused, “It's amazing! The boys are very, very happy! I don't think it's sunk in yet! You can't put it in to words. As a group of rugby players, we wanted to win the World Cup for ourselves and the management, but the magnitude of what happened tonight for South Africa as a country in back home is something people who live in South Africa will understand. Going forward, hopefully it's a measure of hope we can put back into our country.”
The Springboks played like a true champion right from the word go. They won every single big point dominating the whole game from start-to-finish. In the World Cup finals, not even a single team has ever surrendered their half-time lead. The Springboks were too quick for the British players to handle them, forget tackling or taking on them.
Coach Rassie Erasmus revealed, “There are so many good things in South Africa, but always in the past, we seem to look at all the bad things. We just decided, let's stand together and work really hard and play well on the field. Then, all the other things will come out later. I think that's what we did and with that, we won the World Cup.” Yokohama became green with South African colours celebrating and dancing in joy about their third World Cup win.
It was England’s third defeat in the finals in four outings. In 1991, they lost to Australia 12–6. In 2003, they avenged their defeat against Australia to win the title scoring 20–17. In 2007, England reached the final to face none other than the Springboks. They lost 15–6. And now once again, they lost to South Africa 32–12. It was disheartening for the British players, because they had overcome to defeat the All Blacks New Zealand in the semi-final to enter the final.
England’s Coach Eddie Jones revealed after the match, “We just couldn't get on the front foot. We were dominated in the scrum, particularly in the first 50 minutes. When you are in a tight, penalty-driven game, it’s difficult to get any sort of advantage. We needed to fix up the scrum and little things around the line-out then get a bit more accurate in how we attacked.
We did that for a while, got ourselves back into the game, but in the end, we had to force the game and gave away a couple of tries. They were too good for us at the breakdown today. That's the great thing about rugby, one day you are the best team in the world and the next, a team knocks you off.”