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How rugby’s new dawn made me happy to be South African all over again – Ben Karpinski

Rugbyphoria! It’s that exquisite feeling of joy and triumph that leaves you with a glow, when the Bokke and the BlitzBokke go out of their way to prove the healing, uniting power of sport. 

By Ben Karpinski*

Something strange happened last Sunday. Before going to bed and casting my mind to the week ahead, I was happy. Not just any kind of happy. I was ‘rugby happy’.

You could have played the Carte Blanche theme music to me on repeat and my mood would not have dipped in the slightest.

You are probably thinking it’s because we finally had some decent wins to cheer about, and in part you would be correct. After a couple of low seasons, the sheer elation of a decent win for the Springboks in particular was special. But this past weekend was about more than just winning.

Even the most optimistic of people living in this weird and wonderful country would admit that South Africans are experiencing difficult times right now. Politically, economically, socially, and of course sportswise… even a glass ‘half full’ outlook is a bit of a stretch for most.

On the rugby side though, when Siya Kolisi led the Boks out onto the field there was a beautiful air of change. There was some new excitement around a new Springbok team. After about 20 minutes of play that newfound excitement had been blunted somewhat by a rampant English team, but then the real change took place.

Rather than crashing to another heavy defeat, something Bok fans have become a little too accustomed to of late, a young and spirited team found their stride, and with that one of the greatest Bok tests in recent memory took place. The Boks ran in five beautiful tries, and played a kind of rugby that had the fans cheering like never before.

The mix of youth and experience, black and white, fast and strong, combined to produce a wonderful sight as they bested Eddie Jones’ English side on the day 42-39. The rugby purists will bemoan the shaky start, some defensive frailties, conceding 39 points on the day and a slight lack of intensity at the death, but the team had certainly achieved something great on the day.

Kolisi and his players did a lap of honour around the stadium to salute those who had supported them in this epic battle. It may have just been ‘one win’ after just ‘one game’ in charge, but it certainly felt more than that.

The performance turned social media into a happy place where South Africans seemed to be genuinely proud to be South Africans again. No doubt totally influenced by the result and general weekend festivities, but it was so refreshing and a great departure from the negativity and divisive agendas that occasionally clog up our timelines.

I scrolled and scrolled, lapping up all the happiness. Similarly on Sunday evening, faced with the near impossible task of overhauling a rampant Fijian team going into the weekend, the injury-hit Blitzboks team somehow got the opportunity to retain their world series title. All that stood between them and ultimate glory was a different kind of English side.

With the same determination and flair as Siya Kolisi’s men a day before, Philip Snyman’s team recorded a famous win, again made possible by a group of diverse South Africans coming together to achieve something memorable.

Great rugby moments come and go, as do the memories we keep with them. Something we must not forget however is why they can be so special for us.

This past weekend reminded us in South Africa what is possible when we all come together for a common cause. Team work makes the dream work. That dream is a South Africa unified by its diversity. This past weekend’s happenings on the field can give us all a bit of hope for what is possible in our future.

Siya Kolisi and his Springbok team still have a very tough series ahead against the English, and en route to the World Cup next year there will be some tough times indeed. But what makes me so happy right now is that with this current team and the new kind of support I saw around it, these challenges will be approached by a team with a greater purpose. I’m looking forward to discovering more about it at each new step.

  • Ben is a freelance sports writer, MC and offers sports related content campaigns for brands. He is also the sports guy on Gareth Cliff’s morning show on CliffCentral.com where he gets the freedom to air his sporting views and ‘insights’.
  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.
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