Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said South Africa’s Rugby World Cup victory on Saturday showed what the Rainbow Nation could achieve if it pulled together to face its challenges.
An emotional Kolisi, the first black man to captain the Springboks, devoted the Webb Ellis Cup to the people of South Africa and said he was so grateful for their support.
“We have so many problems in our country but a team like this, we come from different backgrounds, different races but we came together with one goal and we wanted to achieve it,” Kolisi said.
“I really hope we’ve done that for South Africa. Just shows that we can pull together if we want to achieve something,” said the captain, who led his team to a resounding 32-12 victory over England in Yokohama.
He said coach Rassie Erasmus had told the team they were not just playing for themselves but for all the people in South Africa, which is suffering an economic crisis with unemployment hovering around 30 percent.
And Kolisi said the Springboks had received countless messages from home as the nation got behind his team.
“Since I’ve been alive, I’ve never seen South Africa like this,” he said.
“Thank you so much. We love you South Africa and we can achieve anything if we work together as one,” said the captain.
Erasmus, who is stepping down as head coach after the World Cup, said the support had driven the team to new heights.
“To the Springbok supporters, I would like to say we never felt alone here in Japan. We felt them all the way,” said Erasmus.
“Not just the supporters in Japan but also those back home. All the messages, all the WhatsApps, all the Facebook, the Twitter feed. We know there are millions there and we know they support us.
“We love them and I can’t wait to get back home.”
The coach said his team were “a little bit fortunate” at times to win the game which earned them their third global trophy.
Erasmus took over as director of rugby at the end of 2017 and shortly afterwards doubled his responsibilities by taking over as head coach following the sacking of Allister Coetzee after 12 losses from 25 games over two seasons.
Under Erasmus, the Boks finished second in the 2018 Rugby Championship, notably claiming South Africa’s first win in New Zealand since 2009 with a thrilling 35-34 victory in Wellington.
They went one better by winning this year’s abbreviated tournament, their first since 2009, after victories over Australia and Argentina, and a draw with the All Blacks.
“We always in the past seemed to look at all the bad things. We just decided ‘listen, let’s stand together, and work really hard, play well on the field.’ And all the other things will then from that come out later and that’s what we did.
“And eventually now we’ve won the World Cup, so that’s great.”
(With AFP inputs)