South Africans continued to celebrate their Rugby World Cup triumph on Sunday, with many in the sometimes fractious and troubled nation echoing Springbok captain Siya Kolisi’s post-match message of unity and strength.
Images of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, congratulating South African players in the changing room – including half-naked scrum-half Faf de Klerk – went viral on social media and was broadcast repeatedly by TV networks.
The nation’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, due to fly back from Japan on Sunday after appearing with the team to lift the trophy, described “a historic moment”.
“This historic win has been achieved with the passionate support of more than 57 million South Africans who have been inspired by the Springboks’ performances throughout the tournament.
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“This is a powerful indicator of what we can achieve when we set goals for ourselves and we work together to achieve success,” Ramaphosa, who took power last year, said.“It is a moment that is embedded forever in our national memory.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel prize winner and leader of the decades-long struggle against the racist, repressive apartheid regime, said the Springboks had restored “a self-doubting nation’s belief.”
“The win has provided a welcome moment of optimism,” Tutu said. “Though there has been much progress since the dark days of apartheid, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, and deep tensions between communities remain.
“Violent crime is a serious problem, with poor people most likely to be victims. There is deep public frustration with soaring unemployment, low economic growth, patchy delivery of basic services and widespread corruption.
“We are a special country, and an extraordinary people. On days such as this we understand that when we pull together the sky is the limit. When we believe in ourselves we can achieve our dreams,” Tutu said.South Africa captain Siya Kolisi: 'we can achieve anything if we work together' – video
Most newspapers and bulletins were still leading with the news of the win on Sunday morning. Many quoted the words of Kolisi, who grew up in deep poverty in Eastern Cape province and spoke immediately after the match of support from “people in the taverns, in the shebeens, farms, homeless people ... and people in the rural areas.”
“We have so many problems in our country. But to have a team like this, we come from different backgrounds, different races and we came together with one goal.”
The history of rugby in South Africa – described as “the sporting embodiment of white minority rule” – touches many of the most sensitive issues in a nation where historic grievances are still powerful. Kolisi is the first black captain of the Springboks, and the team fielded on Saturday was the most representative ever seen.
The victory prompted jubilation in the clubs, pubs and squares across the country where supporters had gathered.
“Black players proved that they are capable and that they were chosen for the squad on merit. The squad has made me feel proud as a black person and a South African today,” said Mbongiseni Ntanjana, a supermarket worker from Epping near Cape Town, who watched the game in a crowded pub in the township of Khayelitsha.
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Sinethemba Tokhew, 31, said the victory would boost the image of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ across the world. “People think of violence when they talk about South Africa. We too have been crying about this for too long, but now we are happy.”
The South African parliament also congratulated the Springboks for repeating “the uniting and nation-building effect the 1995 crop brought about to our nation”, a reference to the South African victory 24 years ago.
That day, Nelson Mandela handed the Webb Ellis Cup to captain Francois Pienaar at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. The image of the two men became an iconic symbol of hope and reconciliation in the country’s first years of democracy.