Dear Siya, Bongi, Rassie, Jacques and the Amabokoboko family
I come from the rural areas of the Eastern Cape, near Qonce in the territory of the unmatchable Makazole and Lukhanya. (Ndikhulele emaXhoseni). I wish I could dedicate a Gwijo to you, but I will make do with writing a letter instead:
We know that sport is a miraculous alchemist that is able to transcend barriers and connect people, but what you are doing for the people of South Africa individually and collectively goes way beyond that. In the middle of all the bleak shit that is being flung at us (Eskom and fuel hikes, poverty, corruption and crime), by the local and international media on a daily basis, we are buoyed up by the tiny consistent glimmers of hilarity, authenticity and humility that you supply to us every day. Rassie with his traffic lights and mind games, Siya giving Jesse a forehead kiss in the changerooms, Eben ululating with the Gwijo Squad, the way you all treat your wives and children, Cheslin feeding his wife while she breastfeeds a mini Kolbe and Ox winning scrums with chocolate cake. These little pockets of joy or laughter or inspiration that you deposit into our otherwise hopeless inboxes are priceless. And while any conversation about Gaza or Ukraine or world politics creates a knock-on effect of polarization and division and despair in every workplace, home and classroom, we just have to mention any one of you by name and the opposite is true. You draw us together. I wept with a complete stranger in an ATM queue after Mapimpi was injured, high fived a colleague who usually annoys me when we found common ground after nearly experiencing joint coronaries in the 80 minutes of the quarter final (a consistent heart rate of 160 will do that to anyone), had an animated conversation and exchanged phone numbers with a petrol attendant about Cheslin’s conversion block – something neither of us had ever seen before. The way you engage with each other restores hope in my core that we can achieve real ‘game minutes’ transformation in this astonishing country we call home. If you okes can do it, if you can transform such a deeply divided sport and demonstrate that real transformation has done rugby a favour, that its done South Africa a favour – then surely we can achieve this as a nation too? If Coach Jacques (who has hardly played rugby) can engineer a team like yours with nothing but passion and determination and commitment, if Siya and Makazole can overcome such overwhelming odds, if these things are possible, then anything is possible, surely? We need hope here at home. We especially need hope in the Eastern Cape. We need men who are vulnerable and humble and strong and able to show real brotherhood and love to be role models to our fatherless boys and there are many days when hope falters. So thanks for doing hope for us. Putting the British firmly in their place this weekend was a bonus. Bringing that cup home would be next level. But you have more than done your job already. Just saying. Ons is almal op die groem kant!