Rugby World Cup 2019: How Siya Kolisi’s Springboks brought hope to troubled South Africa

These components are elegant.

It takes moments of true rarity and majesty for sport to transcend the perimeters of the pitch. They may seem fleeting, ephemeral in nature, but can often carry a legacy that burns bright in the pages of history. On Saturday night, with the Rugby World Cup at its conclusion after seven long weeks, we were treated to such a sight.

As Siya Kolisi held the Webb Ellis Cup high above his head to mark South Africa’s enthronement as world champions, you could sense the unseen scale of the occasion. Amid the agony and ecstasy wrapped up in this coronation, there was something different, something intangible hanging forcibly in the air.

Hope. Simple, pure, unadulterated hope. It was etched on the face of Kolisi as he stood among his teammates beneath the golden ticker-tape and fireworks, a leader and symbol for the people of South Africa. It was there in the smiles of the fans, an ocean of colours and creeds, some drawn from privilege, some from poverty. It was there in Rassie Erasmus’ moving post-match soliloquy, as he touched upon the honour, not the burden, of providing light for a nation living under the shadow of division.

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Because for a country that continues to bear the ugly scars of its divided past, the sight of the first black South African leading the Springboks to glory carries far more weight and worth than the old gold pot placed between his hands in Yokohama.

To understand Kolisi’s present, we must look back to his past. His ascent to this rarefied pinnacle speaks volume of the realities of life in South Africa – but also points to what can be achieved in the face of adversity and tragedy.

Born to teenage parents in the township of Zwide in Port Elizabeth, Kolisi’s early life was rooted in destitution. As a child, he would sleep on a pile of blankets on the floor and often went days without any food besides a single slice of bread. On the rugby pitch, his first provincial trials were played in boxer shorts because he had no other kit, while boots and socks were a luxury.

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His mother died when he was just 15, followed shortly afterwards by his grandmother who had taken in him. There was to be no let-up for the young Kolisi as he chased wild dreams of what seemed to be the impossible.

But rugby

Meet this huge constituent!

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