The Day a Rugby Game Healed A Nation
I remember when I was a kid growing up first in South Africa & then in Britain I wondered why it was that I never saw a South Africa never played England or Australia at Rugby.
Of course back then I didn't know what apartheid was & when I started to understand what apartheid was & how much of an unjust system it was I certainly did support the sporting boycott imposed because of the apartheid regime.
But though I believed apartheid was totally evil as racism generally is, I still secretly wanted the Springbok to take to the rugby field & beat the crap of England. Like Australia; South Africa is a sports mad country & rugby to my family is practically a religion & so it hurt not to be able to compete on the international scene.
Well in early 1990 Nelsen Mandela was released from prison & apartheid had begun to be dismantled & I looked forward to the Springbok whipping England on the Rugby field.
In October 1992 I was there when South Africa took to the field at Twickenham for the first time sine the end of apartheid, sadly the Springbok lost that time & though apartheid was being dismantled & there where going to be multiracial elections, South Africa was still a very divided country.
Even when it came to sport things were divided by race, the English descendents played cricket, the Dutch descendents played rugby & the blacks played soccer.
If there was ever a rebel tour to South Africa during apartheid such as the 1974 British Lions tour, anti apartheid campaigners would condemn the tour, whilst the Blacks living in South Africa got busy supporting whoever against the Springbok.
When England first toured post apartheid South Africa in 1994 the Springbok were booed because the South African rugby establishment were still seen as racist. I guess Blacks still seemed to feel that as it was with apartheid that the Springbok represented superior White Afrikaner sporting prowess.
South Africa were due to hold the Rugby World Cup a year later & well it didn't seem that Mandela's dream of a nation reconciling its past differences & be united was going to come true.
A year later the Springbok won the rugby world cup against one of the best rated All Black teams of all time & its now considered one of the greatest sporting moments of all time.
I remember that day because I was in South Africa & it was the first time I was proud to be South African & it felt that on the rugby pitch that day a lot of the wounds that had divided South Africa were healed.
As the South African captain Francois Pienaar said after winning '60,000 fans at Ellis Park, but also for all 43,000,000 South Africans'.
I remember telling the co-hosts on Free Talk Live this & well they didn't quite understand why this was so important, well there's now a film directed by Clint Eastwood out at the cinemas entitled Invictus.
When I heard that this was the subject matter for Eastwood's latest film I was very curious because its not the typical subject matter for Eastwood but even though I've as yet not seen the film I'm glad that Eastwood has made this film & I suspect he's done an okay job having watched a lot of his pass films.
I say to all those who think its bollocks that sport can't heal political rifts they're wrong because I witnessed it myself that it can.
Of course since South Africa won that World Cup the Springbok have gone to win another World Cup & become the best team in the world ahead of the All Blacks & whipping England several times including twice in the last world cup.