South Africa’s World Cup victory is about far more than rugby, Springboks legend Bryan Habana said following their thumping 32-12 win over England on Saturday in Japan.
South Africa’s third World Cup triumph was marked by the side’s first black captain Siya Kolisi receiving the trophy in a sport that for decades was seen as a bastion of apartheid.
Habana, who was in the side that beat England in 2007, said the sight of Kolisi leading the team would inspire millions of South Africans.
“I’m taking a moment to take it all in – this is what the best dreams are made of,” Habana told broadcaster ITV.
“This moment will be etched forever not only on the trophy but for every South African.
“This has been a journey which has been so transformational.
“Siya Kolisi thank you for giving South Africa hope, thank you for inspiring South Africans.”
In a nod to the past, Kolisi was wearing the same number six that white captain Francois Pienaar wore when he accepted the trophy from South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela in 1995.
Habana said he hoped the victory marked a turning point for both the country and the sport.
“This will be so much bigger than just for rugby and also for a new generation watching back home,” said Habana.
“It is incredibly special to see a story like Siya’s and the journey he has been on for the last seven years.
“To see a guy galvanise a team which did not seem possible (winners) 18 months ago is extraordinary.
“With him at the helm I hope this story lingers on a long time.”
Kolisi said having his father at the match was a way of repaying him.
“I believe you never forget where you came from and those who helped you,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Springboks captain Jean de Villiers Saturday hailed the triumph as bigger than rugby.
“It’s for the whole country,” said De Villiers, who captained the Springboks in the 2015 World Cup before suffering a tournament-ending injury.
“The significance is so much more than just a rugby game that’s been won.”
He paid tribute to coach Rassie Erasmus and the players led by Siya Kolisi, the first black Test captain of South Africa, who transformed what had been a struggling team only a year ago.
“We’ve been in the doldrums but they’ve been able to get themselves out of it and lift that beautiful trophy,” he said.
De Villiers was part of a panel of former players who analysed the final at the SuperSport TV studios in Johannesburg.
Naas Botha, another former Springboks captain, praised an outstanding all-round team effort.
“This team proved that if we stand together we can do it. Everybody can embrace this moment.”
Schalk Burger, a member of the 2007 World Cup-winning team, said: “We thought England’s performance in the semi-final (against New Zealand) was the performance of the World Cup.
“But this performance was just outstanding. The thing I enjoyed most about it was our attitude. We played rugby the way only the Springboks can. We dominated every facet of play.”