At about the same time as the Springboks were parading the spoils of their Rugby World Cup victory on historic Vilakazi Street in Soweto on Thursday afternoon, MPs in the National Council of Provinces came out to congratulate them.
While the general mood was a celebration of the hope a united team of diverse South Africans can bring when they work together to achieve a goal against all odds, there was one party who saw things differently – the EFF.
EFF MP Mmabatho Mokause said: “Even though rugby was brought to this country by murderous British colonialism, it took on a development of its own and became deeply embedded in the culture and imagination of our people.
“Over the past 200 years, the culture has become so strong, that despite many years of subjugation, and marginalisation of black talent, and deliberate attempts by the Afrikaners to claim rugby as their own sport, our people have persisted and against all odds made it to this team.
“It is against this backdrop that we salute the brave black efforts of this new generation of black rugby players who have broken all barriers against their progress.”
She “saluted” some of the black players in the Springbok squad and said winger Aphiwe Dyantyi “was strategically excluded from the game”.
Dyantyi was injured at the start of the season and tested positive for multiple banned substances.
DA MP Dennis Ryder said the sportsmanship and character shown by the team were remarkable.
“The team included a diverse group of South Africans, and we were well represented. The result has been that South Africans from all walks of life came together and celebrated.
“The social cohesion and nation-building project has been driven forward, very much like the creative midfield maul in the overwhelming 32-12 win in the final against England.”
Ryder said the polarising rhetoric by political parties that were focused on race and division had pushed this project of the Rainbow Nation backwards, and as such “pushed us backwards as a nation”.
“The Boks went forward as our standard bearers and it is now up to us as South Africans to heed their rallying call, to bind behind them and drive ourselves to the goal line of a united country.
“Madam deputy chair, there will always he haters and spoilers,” he said, looking in the direction of where Mokause was seated. “To the few, small-minded deriders, in true South African fashion, I merely shake my head and click my tongue. Ag shame,” he said to laughter.
To applause, ANC MP Jomo Nyambi said the celebration should go to all the provinces not just Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern and Western Cape.
He said he had watched the game in a small village in Mpumalanga.
“I was reminded of the endless possibilities that South Africa represents when our rugby team, the Springboks, defied the odds to emerge victorious in this year’s edition of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“We salute the Siya Kolisi-led battalion which reminds us we can play and win together as a country. Their heroics should be a lesson that we can achieve more if we work as a team,” Nyambi said.
“I join all our citizens in wishing coach Rassie Erasmus and the entire technical team, the captain and all the players – and all the players! – well. And thank you for their ambassadorial role. We will draw many lessons from their unity as a team and their cohesiveness as a truly South African brand.”
Ryder and Nyambi also wished Tendai Mtawarira, better known to rugby fans as Beast, well in his retirement.
After 117 Test caps and scalps of countless opposing tighthead props, Mtawarira announced his retirement from Test rugby on Tuesday.
“A good dancer knows when to leave the stage,” Nyambi said.
Ryder also wished flyhalf Handre Pollard a speedy recovery. Pollard broke his cheekbone in the final but finished the match in which he contributed 22 points with the boot.
Since the final whistle on Saturday, the EFF seems to be the only South Africans not in a celebratory mood.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi drew the ire of many South African fans on Twitter. When the MPs of other parties spontaneously started singing and dancing after a motion congratulating the Springboks were read in the National Assembly on Tuesday, the EFF sat morosely in its benches.