It seems strange that a travel website should need to write about the Springboks – South Africa’s rugby team. But not really. As the Springboks are the very essence of many lives here, it is appropriate that I dedicate an article to them, to the fifteen giant men that are an integral part of my life’s Epic African Road Trip, the fifteen giant men that you should encounter on any road trip through my extraordinary country. Not seeing a green Springbok shirt in South Africa is like touring Lisbon and not seeing a Ronaldo shirt, or visiting Boston and not seeing a Patriot one. They’re our everything and we love them.
Now, there is no denying it. The Springboks are in a spiral. Every paragraph I write is a minute lost; and every minute lost means that the Springboks drift forever closer to the end of what is surely one of the greatest golden eras of national sport the world over. We call it the rainbow years. In the space of 12 years, South Africa won the rugby world cup twice, which, of course, was buried within and between a very successful cricket era too and the hosting of the soccer world cup (btw, that was South Africa’s best ever four weeks in living memory!)
So is it over? Is the golden era, the rainbow buzz of our youth, where the brilliance of our rugby was just a given and the resilience of how we fought back even during the weakest of years, gone? Well, before I can decide, let me just briefly update you.
As South Africa braces itself for further economic turmoil, set on by political inadequacy, its rugby faces its toughest test yet. In short, our weak currency is sending our best players abroad, ever younger and younger. Our provincial rugby unions, all 14 of them have spread their money and talent too thin between them. Our geographical location and conservative administration have forced our players into global competitions too many time lines apart and our past has shackled us by, whether you believe in it or not, racial rules that dictate our coaching and player selections.
What it all means is this: the Springboks, as usual, have to face their foes with an unreasonable mountain to climb, a mountain that no sport team on the planet should have to climb. None! And yes, I am entitled to sit in my sulk and sulk more. Of course I am! Any reasonable sports fan should be unreasonable and should, in all of his or her passion, find every possible excuse for why we are not winning. That’s my fan’s right! We are unacceptably below par and leap years away from where we should be because global and national forces keep us shackled from ever truly releasing the beast that no doubt exists here but battles to breathe. The frustration!
So, is it over? Is the Golden era done? Well. Maybe for now, yes. But forever? No way chom.
I watched a rugby match today on a Cape Town beach. Did you? A bunch of young boys were showing off their skills; be assured, the same game was being played on the Highveld and they showed off there as well, didn’t they? And the Midlands? Ja, of course my bru. And as I watched them I was reminded that this here sport is ours. It belongs to us. So, don’t you worry about a thing, South Africa. Don’t you worry about a tiny little thing. Just know this: there will come a day when we will be freed from our restraints and our demons and when we are, these boys will be ready for it. As their fathers were before them and their fathers before them, they will be ready to proudly bleed green blood!
May the rest of them fear it. May they fear the rugby child that always lives in Africa. For, be assured, there will come a day when the Springboks will rise again, and higher so, and like the prophecy always predicted, they will return to the summit of world rugby. For that is where we belong.
We will be back. Mark my words. Whether next month or in fifty years, South African rugby will be great again.
Ps. Don’t be fooled. A few wins and few injury returns later, we might be back way sooner than later.