Jaco van der Merwe
And please, Siya Kolisi and co, stop thanking us now. It is we that should thank you for bringing us joy and hope.
As much praise as the Springboks deserve for giving England a proper klap in the Rugby World Cup final, the actual fact they manage to stay sane in the toxic social media sphere shouldn’t be scoffed at.
As the Bok train was gathering momentum in Japan and their loyal fans and the new ones they made during their campaign collectively caught gees, the bitter souls who thrive on creating division searched high and low for ammunition.
After convicting lock Eben Etzebeth of racism in the Langebaan case even before the team left the country, the detractors simply wouldn’t stop throughout the tournament.
And their longing for making hay continued even after that special momentwhen captain Siya Kolisi received the Webb Ellis Cup.
First it was the ‘bomb squad’ storm in a tea cup.
In case you missed it, white replacement players excluded wing Makazole Mapimpi during a try celebration which led to an outcry of blatant racism, especially in light of the Etzebeth saga.
Coach Rassie Erasmus defused the situation explaining the team culture around the group of replacements dubbed the bomb squad.
Even Mapimpi himself posted a video explaining what happened, only to be branded a sell-out by the twitterati.
Later during the tournament Kolisi spoke about racial quotas in South African rugby and said the late Nelson Mandela wouldn’t
have approved forcing that on the Bok team.
You guessed it, the proud captain too didn’t escape without being termed a sell-out.
And what can we say about the old flag outcry?
Prominent politicians – notably Panyaza Lesufi – saw a television image of white fieldside supporters celebrating and condemned the little glimpse of colour around the one oke’s neck as an old flag.
In light of the recent old flag hate speech ruling, hordes cried foul only for the contrary to be proven that it was indeed a new flag.
Half-hearted apologies were made, but the damage was done.
Then the crowning moment came on Saturday when our first black captain led a team appropriately representative of Madiba’s envisioned Rainbow Nation to an epic third World Cup title, which it turns out was much to the dismay of certain politicians of the party sporting red berets.
And when the disgruntled individual was alerted to the fact that the team is led by a black African, he congratulated Kolisi and remarked that the rest can be congratulated by Prince Harry, who personally visited the team in the change room after the final.
Clearly he didn’t realise that there were six other players of colour in the starting line-up, of which four are black African like Kolisi.
So instead of supporting our world champions or just shutting up completely, he chose to rather insult the other players of colour in the team.
Oh, and don’t forget that he was more interested in the Soweto derby in a lesser cup competition than he was in a quadrennial Rugby World Cup final.
And then the red berets snubbed the victory celebrations in parliament yesterday.
I salute the Boks for what they have achieved in Japan.
Use all the superlatives you want.
It was special, it was remarkable, it was emotional, it was sensational, it was just plain stunning and then some.
And please stop thanking us now, it is we that should thank you for bringing us joy and hope.
AS a proud Bok supporter, I would like to apologise to Siya and the boys on behalf of all the poor souls who have tried to deprive you of your much-deserved place in the sun.
Jaco van der Merwe is The Citizen’s Head of Sport.
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