“Latin for Unconcoured”
Out of the night that covers me,Black as the pit from pole to pole,I thank whatever gods may beFor my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstanceI have not winced nor cried aloud.Under the bludgeonings of chanceMy head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tearsLooms but the Horror of the shade,And yet the menace of the yearsFinds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,How charged with punishments the scroll,I am the master of my fate:I am the captain of my soul.
This is the poem written in 1875 by a Mr. William Ernest Henley (1849 – 1903) but was only published in 1888. This was the Victorian poem that Nelson Mandela read every day in cell 46664 on Robben island during his years of incarceration and is the name of the movie that takes us back to a period in SA history that many “myself included, have maybe forgotten about”
Cast your mind back to the early 90s “it was a turbulent and unsettling time” ………….the ANC were un-banned , Nelson Mandela “the bloody terrorist” , yes that’s what we called him was released from jail, Codessa talks and the first democratic elections held with the country on a knives edge we could become the rainbow nation or fall into the abyss. I remember stocking up on tinned food, petrol and ammunition for the fight that was to break out when the results were announced. Luckily sense prevailed and most South Africans, Black and White decided that we should build the country rather than destroy it.
Then Nelson Mandela was elected as our President on the 27th of April 1994 at the Union buildings, most of the world rejoiced, many inside the country feared the worst… Nelson Mandela however turned out to be a statesman and a man who wanted only the best for this country and all its peoples. The movie Invictus portrays this and I don’t think any of us then were aware of how hard Nelson Mandela worked ,sometimes against his own party and supporters to ensure that reconciliation and forgivness prevailed.
“One Team One country” was the cry from all the population in 1995, but this wasn’t always the case, in fact in the black population the Springbok was seen as a racist symbol and with only Chester Williams as the “token player” there was not much hope that the country would support the Boks during the world cup at home….. not until Madiba and Francois Pienaar decided to change that and together set about to achieve what most people thought would be impossible, the support of the whole country for the Bokke. It was a miracle and one that the country needed as the new government (as it does today) had many issues to face and to be honest the mid 90’s was not great for the country.
I can remember vividly that month of the world cup, I learnt Shozolaoza and Nkosi Sikiela from my staff at Malaga Hotel and we set up a TV in the staff canteen for the hotel staff as well as local farm staff to watch the games. I remember hearing :Hie Kom die Bokke” by Leon Schuster just about everywhere one went, we knew the words to not only that song but also Ek soek die Bokke, Bang Johanna, Hippo in n scrum and Champions unplugged. In fact I still have that CD (signed by Leon) and is a treasured possession. I am sure if I look in boxes I will find old newspaper clippings and other memorabilia from that era. I also remember that our new flag “Winnie Mandelas’ G string” as it was commonly called then took on a new meaning to me and I abandoned the Oranje Blanje Blou and looked upon our flag with a new found pride.
Lion adverts on TV showing the Boks as a team for the country, coaching clinics and good PR from all sides ensured that the impossible became a reality. I don’t think that the country has ever been as close as it was that month and if we are honest we did lose momentum over the years with the spark that was lit over that period.
The first game was against Australia at Newlands on the 25th of may 1995 and we won, this ensured that we would not have to beat both England (who the year before had beaten us badly) and New Zealand to win. We then played Samoa, Canada, but it was the Semi-Final that had many of our nerves on a knives edge, I remember we set up TVs in the Lounge as well as the pub and we where packed with cars stopping off the road, for those who remember we had to wait to see if the game would in fact take place as the rain in Durban had lashed down and it was touch and go if the game would be played. If it had not been played the Bokke were out of the World Cup. The game was played and Andre Joubert with a damaged arm probably played the best game of the tournament. The French with a few minutes to go attacked our line and looked like they had gone over to score and win the game………I remember that you could have heard a pin drop as we all waited with bated breath to see if the refs hand went up to indicate a try had been scored. It was not a try and a scrum was awarded to SA. Legend says that Kobus Wiese said to the forwards “we go forward, we go up, if we go backwards then I will F—k you up” the ball was won by SA the ball kicked into touch and we were in the Finals, what a party. The next day the All Blacks beat England so it would be a SA vs New Zealand Final at Ellis park.
While SA had won their games the all Blacks had demolished all teams before them clubbing Japan in Bloemfontein 145 to 17 with a world record score. Jona Lohmu seemed unstoppable (he scored 3 against England in the semi final, literally running straight over Mike Catt to score an awesome try. Would we be able to stop this Jugernaught and beat the best team in the world?
The week leading up to the game was filled with anticipation, with rugby commentators and locals alike debating whether or not we could actually achieve the impossible and win the World Cup in our own backyard, the first time we had ever played in the competition. The day of the game arrived staff and guest alike dressed in Springbok or SA colours regulars at the bar painted their faces in the colours of the flag, our barman Ronnie was dressed up like a referee with whistle and was relishing the game. The build up to the game was agonising with nerves of millions of South Africans stretched to the limit……….if we felt as nervous how did the Boks feel ?
The crowd where in full voice, flags flew …..in fact I do not think I had seen so many flags before or again in a rugby stadium. SAA flew over the stadium in a Boeing and a friend who was lucky enough to be at the game said to me afterwards that it was the most amazing thing….you heard a rumble, the stadium started to vibrate and then a Boeing flew over, I personally think that the moment we beat New Zealand was when Nelson Mandela walked onto Ellis Park field with a number 6 Springbok jersey (in fact as I am writing this I have goose bumps just picturing that moment in my minds eye). In a month we had gone from No-hopers to possible winners and Nelson Mandela could hardly contain his joy as he walked onto that field.
Then as if one voice close to 62 000 people in that stadium started to chant ‘Nelson” “Nelson” Nelson” ……..It was a special and pivotal moment not only at the game but also in South Africa’s History, barely a year after taking office some of the very people that had wanted him dead and dreaded the future under his rule where chanting his name with abandon.
The traditional Maouri “the Haka” was performed with the Springboks right up in the All Blacks faces, accepting .. no relishing the challenge. The game was tight with play ebbing and flowing, but the All Blacks soon realised that we would be no pushover and that if they wanted to win the 95 world cup they would have to fight for it, half time the score was ?? Shozaloza and Hie kom die Bokke rung around the stadium, we had a chance we had held our own and had stopped Johna Lomu in his tracks, not giving him a chance to use his power against us.
The second half was much like the first, “cut and thrust across the field although we crossed the line Ruben Kruger’s try was not allowed….” I still to this day believe that he scored” final score was 9 / 9. Extra time loomed and hopefully Kitch Christie (Springbok coach) fitness programme would pay off. New Zealand scored again it was 12/ 9 then Joel Stransky slotted a penalty and the score was 12 /12. the atmosphere in the bar was electric and at one point I could not watch anymore, I had to go outside and catch my breath. With only a few minutes left of the game and knowing if the score was level at the end of extra time New Zealand would win, we willed the Boks on we begged and pleaded please win.
Then it happened we where up in the All Blacks 22 a scrum was awarded to the Boks , we won the ball it was picked up by Joost VD Westhuizen the scrumhalf who made a perfect pass to Joel, he positioned himself dropped the ball towards his feet and drop kicked the ball it flew high and long but would it fly true………. Time seemed to stand still, there was a hush in the bar and the stadium held its collective breath, then I saw Joel turn the way he did when he knew the ball was going over the post………South Africa went crazy we where 15/12 ahead. We where ahead but we had not won yet….. we actually missed another penalty and then the final whistle blew……………….We had won the miracle had become a reality, grown me cried black and white supporters hugged, people poured out onto the streets to celebrate and celebrate we did but not as a divided country, as a united nation. Just before Francois Pienaar was to receive the trophy he was asked by a sports presenter if the 62 000 voices in the stadium had pulled the Boks through, Francois Pienaar answered we did not have 62 000 supporters we had 42 000 000. In the Movie Madiba says to Francois as he hands over the Webb Ellis trophy thank you for what you have done for South Africa , Francois Pienaar replies, “no Mr. President thank you for what you have done for the country”
The pride of being a South African that day permeated through all of her citizens black, white, coloured and Indian, we where South African all of us…….we have let it slip and need to rally around a common theme once again to again achieve the heady heights of 1995, just like then I believe we need it no more than ever to become a united country again, to solve our problems together and to make this a country that all of our citizens can feel safe in and our children have a fair chance of competing in.
We did it in 1995, prior to the competition the Boks were losing games left right and centre, a new coach was appointed just before the world cup, were seen as being lucky to be hosting the tournament otherwise they would not have been In the competition………..”sound familiar”, it should as its exactly what many of us are saying today about Bafana Bafana. So why don’t we as non soccer supporters get on the band wagon, and support the team, ‘One team one country” should again be our battle cry and as a nation “warts and all” stand up proud again and show the world that we are the rainbow nation that we despite our differences can stand together when it matters most. Seems Invictus may just have been released at the right time because while I am not naïve and know the country still has so many challenges and problems if you go and watch this movie (in fact it should be showed non national TV so everyone can watch it) I do not believe many people will come out not feeling Proud to be a south African………I do not think I have ever watched a movie that at the end no one left and watched the credits roll out.
Thank you Madiba and Thank you Francois and the Boks of the 1995 World Cup Team, you where hero’s then and I now know what a role you played in helping lay the foundation for the future. With just over 150 days to go before the World Cup soccer kicks off lets get behind our team and show the world that South Africa is the best country in the world, Invictus showed me that as a South African we need to support each other as it is the only way that this country will grow, there are many “nay sayers” and we will always have them, both in the country and overseas……many of them ex South Africans who will lead us to believe that the ‘grass is greener on the other side” but who I know secretly and desperately want to come back to South Africa, “swallow the pride, pack your bags and come and make a difference in your own country”
“It is Time”