Dear Bokke, thank you for flying the SA flag high and restoring pride
Thank you for a glorious Rugby World Cup, for flying our flag high and uniting us once again.
Long after the sun had set in the Land of the Rising Sun, where you made us proud, South Africa was having a glorious and proud Saturday morning.
You need to know how much we appreciate what you have done for your country; we’d already won before you ran out onto the field in Yokohama. Of course, in our hearts, you are bringing the gold cup back home.
There is so much to be proud of.
Six weeks ago, when the team lost to the All Blacks, even the most passionate Springbok fans had some doubts about the rest of your journey.
We’ve had some tough times, the Boks and their fans, but when you bagged the Rugby Championship, there was a glimmer of hope that we wouldn’t have as dismal a World Cup as we had in 2015.
And there you were, in the final. We have much to celebrate.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmon Tutu agrees - he sent this message to the team:
“Captain of the nation, Siya Kolisi, ou Rassie, Chessie, en al die manne: Siyabulela! Ngiyabonga! Thank you!
“Your dignity, diversity and courage are infectious. You have restored South African rugby’s pride, and made us all feel good about ourselves. A World Cup Final is a highly pressured environment, but if you feel weightless when you run on to that Yokohama field on Saturday, it will be because you are being carried by the love, respect and prayers of 56million of us at home. You have already won! God bless you, Love Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”
Coach Rassie Erasmus, nominated for IRB Coach of the Year (with England’s Eddie Jones, Warren Gatland of Wales, Steve Hansen of New Zealand and Jamie Joseph of Japan) has been remarkable.
There have been no off-field sideshows and gamesmanship with opponents, and his game plans have been tactically spot on. We don’t care if you win ugly: in the record books, there’s not a column that says it was a less-than-spectacular match.
Rassie also attracted some controversy about his selections, and many quiet masterstrokes. One of these was the selection of Siya Kolisi as captain.
Kolisi’s life journey has led him to the pinnacle of his chosen sport, and his quiet authority, calmness and humility have made him a natural leader of men.
Erasmus stood by his chosen frontman as Kolisi recovered from injury. He has delivered, to fans and the team.
One of the main markers of Erasmus and his men has been calmness, a sense that, as a group, they do not rattle. They know precisely what is expected of them; they know what they are doing and are not flustered by external issues.
There has been almost none of the outside hysteria that often goes with a Bok team.
There has been controversy about an alleged incident involving Eben Etzebeth before the team left, and a social media campaign of outrage about Makazole Mapimpi being “excluded” from a huddle of white Boks (quickly extinguished by Mapimpi himself).
But the most diverse team in Bok history has been as solid as their tight five when it comes to being united, one brother with another.
Every man has played his role, so it’s almost unfair to mention names. However, one of the real gems in our crown has been Cheslin Kolbe (nominated for Player of the Year, along with Pieter-Steph du Toit - no other country has two nominees).
He and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk have also put paid to the argument that only big men play rugby.
Your fellow Saffers have many challenges, but your success has buoyed us; got us talking to each other with a shared pride and given us a brief respite from the tough things we face.
It’s one of history’s most famous quotes, by one of the world’s favourite people, but we again remember Nelson Mandela’s lesson that sport has the power to unite. Heck, even SABC and MultiChoice found a way to make sure all South Africans see the game.
We’d love the Webb-Ellis, but we love our Boks, no matter what.
Today’s coverage of the final is on SABC2 from 10am, and on SuperSport 2 from 8.30am. #StrongerTogether
* Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor of the Independent On Saturday.Independent On Saturday