President Cyril Ramaphosa turned on the charm when addressing the world-conquering Springboks at the Union Buildings on Thursday, telling them “I’m glad it’s not election season because all these players would be elected”.
The Boks began their trophy parade through the streets of Pretoria and Johannesburg on Thursday and will move to other parts of the country in the coming days.
Fresh from a history-making victory over England – 32-12 – the Boks, led by Siya Kolisi, lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time in as many finals.
“I must applaud the strategy deployed by [coach] Rassie Erasmus and his team… today they are victorious as gladiators,” Ramaphosa began.
“What I am pleased about is that we are not about to hold an election… if we were about to hold an election, I have no doubt that the entire [Springbok] rugby team would be in parliament [and] in Cabinet,” Ramaphosa joked.
“Kolisi would have been the president and Erasmus would be the Minister of Finance,” he continued … “I’m glad I don’t have to compete with Siya Kolisi right now.”
Ramaphosa also used the opportunity to thank the team for “consolidating the unity of the nation”.
In the lead-up to the final, commentary, both social and on traditional media weighed differently on the significance of the Bok win.
Social commentators on the one hand wrote about the unifying role the win would have on South Africa, while others warned that in a country grappling high unemployment, slow economic growth, state capture and the declaration of war on its women and children – the expectation that a Bok win would be a wand that unites people was misplaced.
But, even given South Africans’ love-hate relationship with the Boks, the scenes on Saturday seemed to point to the unity envisaged by some in the lead-up to the final.
Ramaphosa used his final words to hit out at those who are “dismissing” the victory.
“You have helped unite the country and you have lifted the spirit of the country,” the president said.
“Thank you for having done so. You have consolidated the unity of the nation and we want to savour this moment. We thank you for being the catalyst to ensure we can continue to build our nation”.