Today I am reflecting on South Africa’s magnificent victory at the Rugby World Cup and the impact that this team has had on all South Africans. Yesterday, we all agreed that they are heroes. But this was not always so. And the team felt the pressure of criticism from the public and the weight of expectation from pundits of the game.
Here was a team, with an Afrikaans white coach who selected a young black man as his team captain – a first in South African rugby history. It was a brilliant move that got not just the team together but also a country behind them. This was a truly diverse team, and adopting a single culture would not be easy, where a simple misunderstood gesture would set social media on fire with accusations of racism.
Siya Kolisi, the captain, came up with the hashtag #strongertogether which became the team’s rally cry that eventually reverberated throughout South Africa. At every interview that Kolisi gave, he remembered to thank and give credit to the South African people for standing behind the team and for their support. Even the strongest critic and stoniest heart finally came round. Here was a young man, who hails from one of the poorest homes, who was being likened to Nelson Mandela for his ability to bring a nation together, high praise indeed.
In an interview after the game, Rassie Erasmus the team coach, gave a few insights into the mental preparation of the team. They discussed what pressure meant to South Africans, and whether they could equate the pressure of playing in the World Cup to not having a job, or having a close relative murdered. They came to the conclusion that their performance in the World Cup brought hope to the South African people, uniting us through sport, and that this should be considered a privilege.
Before the final game on Sunday, the coach told the team that they were no longer playing for themselves, that this time they were playing for the 58 million people back home. The team sang the national anthem with passion and they defended their try line with enormous heart. The pressure they soaked up to deny England a try was nothing short of staggering. We are the champions! I have never been prouder to be South African.
When I consider the role that I am currently performing as a consultant, I too consider it a privilege to be coaching so many people. I believe that I coach with passion and from the heart and that others can learn from my experiences, my successes and my failures. I can take heart from this amazing rugby team and adopt their hashtag. #strongertogether will live on for a long time to come.
Until next time 🇿🇦