South Africa really needed cheering up, and the Rugby World Cup did that

Triumph came in the wake of negative publicity over 'xenophobic' attacks

In Summary

• The euphoria on the streets, you'd think Madiba had been resurrected

Celebrations after the Rugby World Cup in Yokohama
Celebrations after the Rugby World Cup in Yokohama

If I was worried that my English friends would have been unbearable had they won the Rugby World Cup, I was scared silly of how upset and angry South Africans would have been had they lost.

Thankfully, since the English started losing bits of their empire back in 1776, they seem to have become quite used to the sensation and tend to get over losses quite fast, if not always sportingly.

After the trauma and stress of the Jacob Zuma years, when they lost their innocence and became more like other African countries than they ever thought possible, the nation’s feelings were battered (Kenyans, imagine the 24 years of Nyayo compressed into a decade).


Then came the false dawn of Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascension, which made most South Africans believe that the good times were back, until the economy decided it would spend a little more time in the doldrums. After all this, South Africans needed some cheering up, and the rugby was just the ticket.

I went out onto the streets of my neighbourhood shortly after the final whistle blew and honestly, you'd think Madiba had been resurrected, or that Ramaphoria was still fashionable. 

The people were so deliriously happy. They were driving around tooting their car horns and with huge grins on their faces, as if while cheering the team on from their couches and pub stools, they had contributed to the final score.

When the team arrived back from Japan on Tuesday afternoon, they were welcomed home by more crowds than even the most benevolent dictator could hope to bus into the airport to boost his ego. They were black, white, brown people, all in solidarity as they were for the brief historical blip when this country was known as the Rainbow nation.

Among the multitude at the airport was Miss South Africa, who took time off her busy preparations for the Miss Universe pageant, set for December in the American city that is home to CNN, Tyler Perry and Coca Cola.  

The beauty queen simpered and spoke about how said she was inspired by the “astonishing commitment of the team to those of us back here, at home, who were watching their every move with bated breath.”

Using the language of people who have attended more seminars than they should, she spoke of how she was “motivated by the winning speech given by the captain, Siya Kolisi”. It would appear that they both hail from somewhere in rural Eastern Cape province.


Even politicians and political commentators were not spared by the strength of feeling about the rugby, and when Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, spokesman of the EFF, tried to rain on the Springbok parade, he was roundly criticised by the left and the right, as well as black and whites, and looked in danger of losing his moniker of “the people’s bae” until his dear leader, Julius Malema, came to his rescue. 

Over the next week, the Bokke will be touring the country, soaking up the adulation. Of course, the hangover that follows will be brutal, but why spoil the vibe?

As for my English friends, cheer up; it might never happen.