By Zukile Majova
Everyone loves a winning team.
More so politicians who are always on standby to claim the hard work of others as their own.
And so it has been this weekend, when various ANC politicians used every available platform to pledge their support for the national rugby team: the Springboks.
The Bokke took on the rugby world cup hosts France on Sunday night in a crucial encounter. The All Blacks appeared to clear the way for the Boks when they knocked world number one Ireland out of the tournament.
For almost three decades, the Springbok team has been under attack from the ANC and its allies who complained about the team being untransformed, short of black players and not reflective of the country’s demographics.
Various strategies have been enforced by various sports ministers, including a so-called quota system to incorporate Africans in the team.
No hardworking player wants to be known as a quota player — so that system failed.
But without the quota system, the Bok camp has been blessed with top performing players of colour including Chester Williams, Brian Habana, Tendai “Beast” Mtawariri, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapipi, Siya Kolisi and others.
Just three months ago, the president of SA Rugby was defending the composition of the Springboks team against critics who complained the squad was still too white.
“You have to look at rugby as a totality, particularly a Springbok team… one must consider that the demographic make-up of our squad, if you look at the squad in its totality, is correct,” he told Cape Talk.
Keen to prove its newfound love for the Springboks, the ANC issued a statement on Sunday saying the Bokke were a “symbol of unity, diversity, and excellence in South Africa”.
“On this day, we fondly recall that historic moment in 1995 when President Nelson Mandela and
Francois Pienaar lifted the trophy following a decisive victory by the Bokke.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa made a call to Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber telling him that he would be travelling to France for the final of the Rugby World Cup and hoped to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy on the night.
ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula also used a party media briefing to say; “Let’s go, Bokke, moer hulle.”
The ruling party is under pressure to unite South Africans behind a common heritage ahead of a politically charged year of electioneering that will culminate in the 2024 national general election.