Rugby World Cup Glory: Inspiring Hope in South Africa

For those who do not know me, I am a rugby nut…I have loved the game since I was a little girl with my family and I still remember being a little girl on my dad’s shoulders running down the street celebrating the 1995 World Cup. At the time, I didn’t as a young child realise the significance of us winning the cup- the hope it brought to a nation that had been divided for so long, the hope it brought many to see a black president hold up the cup with a white rugby leader and the message it gave to all those watching.  

Fast Forward to 2023, and again the winning of the trophy brought tears to me eyes, as I watched player after player that was being interviewed relay the message that they played for the love of the game but also for the 62 million South Africans supporting them- they did it to bring us hope.

After the high of seeing the Springboks hold up the trophy and eventually putting the kids to bed, I couldn’t go to sleep. I kept watching replays, watching the post game interviews and I started to reflect on what I have learnt while watching the 2023 Rugby World Cup and here’s what I have learnt from the Springbok Spirit:

  1. Perseverance: How many times did we think we were about to loose? The last 3 games were tough but watching the team continue to defend, continue to adapt to what is in front of them was so inspiring. We won by one point and yes, commentators would think that it is not good enough but what I saw was a team who never gave up. Kept the hope alive and showed that they could deliver despite difficult circumstances.
  2. Teamwork: What I love about the Springboks is everyone knows their role, and when it was your turn to show up-you show up and give it your all.  We saw it when Handre Pollock came in, when Ox Nche came in for the scrums. Each of them knew their role, each other’s strengths and weaknesses, learning from each other, supporting and encouraging each other. They worked hard on their plan, communicated well on the field and pushed together when the going got tough.
  3. Diversity: Every player has a story that brought them to the team, each of them different, each of them celebrated and brings strength to the team because of it. Siya Kolisi said it best, “Our differences are our strength as a nation and as a team.” The team also reflects the story of so many South Africans from passionate schoolboy rugby players to a rural boy’s dream to play to a boy on the Cape Flats striving for success to a boy who lost family members to one day have a whole country to call family. The Springboks show that each person’s story matters, each person’s background, language and belief matters because that is the fullness of who they are.
  4. Respect: Respect for each other but also respect for who they are playing against. After every game listening to both the coaches and players commend the teams that they played against is something to be admired. Even when those teams weren’t very friendly to us we kept our heads high and focused on their strengths as competitors. A moment that stood out for me is after we played Tonga, how we came together to pray and acknowledge Tonga’s hard journey into the world tournament and an amazing tough 80 minutes it was.
  5. Empathetic Leadership: Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Neinabauer are amazing strategists and have been innovative with the game, but it wouldn’t be possible to implement if they didn’t gain the trust of the players. One could see that the players trust the coaches with their lives and part of that is that they got to know each player and their story and what they needed to be stretched, comforted and to develop as strong players, and this has been role modeled in Siya Kolisi who does the same on the field.
  6. One caring person can change someone’s life: Learning about each player’s story many of their stories such as Siya Kolisi and Makazole Mapimpi are miraculous stories as South Africans playing on the world stage. But it is evident to why Arise works the way we do- we believe that one caring adult can change the trajectory of a child’s life-be it a parent, a teacher, a coach someone who keeps motivating and creating a nurturing environment where a child feels safe and so that they can take risks to succeed and thrive.
  7. Resilience: The Springboks were the underdog yet again in the World Cup and on top of that we faced many challenges. It is safe to say the Springboks had one of the hardest paths to the final- with the pool of death (facing Ireland and Scotland), then the hosts-France who were aiming to win on home ground, and then England. The game against England brought it’s on own challenges with the European media focusing on the allegations of racism again Bongi Mbonambi the week before the final.Then the final when Bongi was injured within 3 min of the game and then Siya Kolisis and Cheslin Kobe with a yellow card…it was brutal. But they learnt to adapt, problem-solve, implement new plans and a never give up attitude.
  8. Role Model: Safe to say that Siya Kolisi is one of the biggest role models to all in South Africa- his love for his teammates, his competitors, the game, the supporters and mostly for the country he represents is evident. But the whole team are role players to all of us as adults but also to our young boys and girls who watch in awe. My eight-year-old son after watching the final said, “Mommy, they really didn’t give up they kept going, I don’t know if I can.”
  9. Continuous Improvement: There’s always room for growth. Again, I am a bit of a rugby nut so watching post interviews it is humbling to hear Jacque Nienabauer say, ‘please don’t call us geniuses, we are not we try something and see if it works if it doesn’t we improve the best we can.”  The Springboks knows that even with the win there needs to be an improvement in dominating the game rather than always playing catch up.
  10. Faith: Faith in each other, faith in their abilities and faith in what they have prepared for but most importantly, putting their faith in God who brought them to this point. It is no surprise to many to see the team praying before and after acknowledging that there is something bigger than them.

Though the Springboks have inspired us, I do agree with Penuel The Black Pen who wrote: “It is unfair of us ordinary South Africans to keep demanding the Springboks to give us hope through their victories, when we don’t meet them halfway.”  So, we need to take what the Springboks have shown us and apply it in every way possible so that we can make South Africa a great country because we have the potential to do it.  I hope as our President Cyril Ramaphosa raised the trophy that he too can bring these lessons into our current government so we can apply this to our handling our education crisis, energy crisis, crime and violence, unemployment issues and so on.

So that next time we win the World Cup our players can stop saying “there are so many problems in South Africa and we do it to bring them hope” but rather…”we have come through so much as a country, we want to show everyone else in the world that there is hope.”

But for me, as the director of Arise I constantly think about how we can motivate and inspire the families and children that we work with who are in our most high risk and violent communities in the Western Cape and where hope is waning.  The Springbok winning the World Cup brings practical lessons that they too can learn in their own lives. That unfortunately, we cannot get rid of our problems or the adversity we face- we need to show up and work through it. They can draw on the importance of working together, adapting, problem-solving, having and being one caring adult to a child who needs it, having and being a role model and having empathy for each other so that we can build and create that sense of belonging for all.

For me the 10 learnt lessons from above, bring us back to our five main pillars that is a firm foundation in all our programmes as an organization:

  1. Deepening relationships
  2. Nurturing strengths
  3. Growing problem-solving skills
  4. Building resilience
  5. Develop a sense of belonging for all

As we ride the high wave of being World Champions, may you bring the Springbok spirit into your lives as a South African and to remember that we are Stronger Together.

Written by Danielle Moosajie (Director of Arise)