In the relatively short time since the understandable and justifiable euphoria of the Springboks being crowned champions of the Rugby World, much has been written, said, recorded and celebrated in many parts of the globe, most particularly in SA and England.
History will record that England were comprehensively beaten by the rank underdogs who had made monumental strides since the dark days of consistently woeful performances up to a mere 18 months before.
Our victory was widely acclaimed as the greatest in a World Cup final and the best thing that could have happened to this nation in these troubled times.
Many things stand out from the sublime performance by the men in green and gold: meticulous and inspired planning by coach Rassie Erasmus and his coaching staff; outstanding leadership by first black African captain Siya Kolisi; memorable performances by all who took to the field on the day; a strategy and game-plan that confounded the opposition and many pundits; two mesmerising tries by the Springboks, and; humility and good sportsmanship demonstrated by captain, coach and all players who have been interviewed.
Sadly, this was not the case with the runners-up on the biggest rugby stage, and observed by virtually all rugby fans (and others) throughout the world.
Top sportsmen and national teams, by their very nature, provide the role models and examples for aspirant young enthusiasts for the future and their conduct is widely expected to reflect good sportsmanship, humility and respect for opponents and the game.
How sad it was and a blight on the reputation of the England team that all but one of their members removed their medals shortly after receiving them.
And to “add insult to injury”, only one member of their team visited the Springbok change-room to congratulate them on their excellent win.
It seems that England’s convincing and emphatic win over the hitherto seemingly invincible All Blacks lifted their confidence levels, self-belief and expectations for the final to a place that brooked no possibility of failure. How wrong they were.
The character of the team was found seriously wanting when they were comprehensively vanquished and seemingly ill-equipped to cope with that reality.
The Springboks produced a magnificent performance and were humble, respectful and gracious in victory.
England reacted like spoilt and entitled boys, and with unsavoury disrespect for the occasion, the sport and the victors. Ultimately sport is about fun, the testing and showcasing of skills and coaching, and respect for adversaries.
Victory and defeat are realities, and the handling thereof a reflection on character and maturity.
Perspective and guidance are reflected in: “The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.” – Martina Navratilova
“How a man plays the game shows something of his character; how he loses shows it all.” – anonymous
The spoils of victory for the Springboks include a euphoria seldom seen in this country, at a time when it is sorely needed.
There has been a vibrant reawakening of the halcyon times of the “Rainbow Nation” of Nelson Mandela.
Hope has received a timely boost and the “Victory Parade” of our rugby heroes through a number of cities has been spectacularly unifying and exceptionally well-supported.
Long may the positive spin-offs of the achievement of coach Rassie Erasmus and his entourage, Siya Kolisi and his magnificent team, be enjoyed and contribute to cohesion and hope in South African society.
They have shown character and respect while giving real meaning to their rallying motif, “Stronger Together”.
Can we as South Africans live up to it, individually and collectively?