South Africa’s Rugby World Cup triumph in 2019 eclipses the side’s success in 1995, according to former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar.
Pienaar was presented with the William Webb Ellis Cup by president Nelson Mandela in an iconic moment in the nation’s post-apartheid history.
“This is bigger,” said Pienaar.
“It is a transformed team with 58 million people watching in South Africa, all races wearing green, which wouldn’t have happened in my time.”
In the apartheid era, during which black South Africans were barred from opportunities and public facilities by a political system of racial segregation, rugby was seen by many as the sport of the country’s minority white community.
The Springboks’ opportunities were limited by an international boycott of the country, with their opponents often supported by the black majority population in the few fixtures they did play.
However, their victory over England on Saturday, led by captain Siya Kolisi who grew up in poverty in a Port Elizabeth township, was greeted by scenes of jubilation across South African society.
“We had an incredible moment with Mr Mandela but just the support from the nation for this and team and captain,” added Pienaar.
“In South Africa we are tender. We have had bad leadership and our country needs to rebuild.
“They play together and it makes them a successful team and that is a beautiful story for life and for a country.
“As a country, to be world champion, you all need to work together.”
Kolisi praise well deserved – Habana
Former Springboks wing Bryan Habana, who helped South Africa achieve World Cup glory in 2007, paid tribute to Kolisi.
“I told people the whole week of Siya growing up,” he said. “He had some support, but he didn’t have great role models. He was sometimes worried about where his next meal was coming from.
“He just wanted to get through some nights knowing that he could go to school and get a jam sandwich that would see him through the day.
“Knowing Siya a little bit more personally than the average person and being part of his journey, it has been absolutely fantastic. He deserves everything that comes his way.”