South Africa hope their victory over England in Saturday’s World Cup final will have the same positive impact on their country as their previous win in 1995.
The Springboks’ victory in 1995 helped unite a country just out of the post-apartheid era with then president Nelson Mandela presenting the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar wearing a replica of his jersey.
South Africa’s current president Thabo Mbeki was in Paris on Saturday to see the Springboks beat England 15-6 and later joined in the post-match celebrations.
“What do you say when you’ve won a World Cup? It’s an unbelievable experience,” South Africa coach Jake White told a news conference.
“It hasn’t even sunk in yet but to see the president of our country sitting on the players shoulders holding the World Cup… is something to be really proud of. It doesn’t get bigger than that for us.
“A country like South Africa realised in 1995 how much winning World Cups actually means to us as a nation.
“People ask why we take the World Cup so seriously. It’s much bigger than any other event, what it did to us as a nation.
“We’ve now won a World Cup away from home. We had our president sitting in the changing room. He was saying how proud he was of being a South African.”
South African rugby has been troubled but Springboks skipper John Smit also believes his team’s victory will have a lasting effect on South Africans.
“You can’t put it into words. We have had the responsibility of carrying the hopes of a nation on our shoulders and now we have a team that is taking the trophy back home to the nation,” he said.
“I certainly hope that being able to lift this cup and take it back home can create a scenario that everyone binds together and we start forgetting about counting numbers and colours.”
White said there were lots of similarities between South Africa’s wins in 1995 and 2007. Both matches were tryless and decided by goalkicks but White said it was his team’s superb defence that ultimately proved decisive.
“I’ve always said defence wins World Cup. History is an amazing thing and it just keeps repeating itself,” he said.
“But it would be wrong of me not to compliment England. People wrote them off a month ago but the way they came back showed a huge amount of character.
“You always hear cliches about pride, passion, team work. They really proved in the last month that they weren’t going to give in without a fight.
“We were defending so well and were never really thought they were asking questions of our line. When we got two scores ahead with 20 minutes to go…
I realised at that point that they were going to have to chase it.
“Those are the things that we have been practising in four years, how to shut games off. We’ve lost games before we should have won but we learnt from that.”
Smit said the lineout was another key area for the South Africans. The Springboks won all 13 lineouts on their own throw and stole seven off England.
“There were a couple of things we put a big emphasis on and the lineout was one. They had a pretty good run against us in the pool game and we weren’t happy about that,” Smit said. – Nampa/Reuters