June 23, 2024

Boks inspire Soweto surge in South African rugby


When Siya Kolisi lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in Tokyo in 2019, he inspired a nation.

It was South Africa’s third World Cup triumph but the first at which the Springboks had been led by a Black player.

Unlike the successes of 1995 and 2007, when the Boks had White captains Francois Pienaar and John Smit at the helm, Kolisi’s victory four years ago sparked an upsurge in interest within the Black community.

Nowhere is that better exemplified than in Soweto, the township just outside Johannesburg, where the kids at Jabulani Tech High School are dreaming of the day that one of them follows the example of Kolisi or their other big hero Makazole Mapimpi into the famous green jersey.

“Black child, your dreams are valid,” says a smiling Sonwabo Buso, captain of the school’s Under-16 rugby team.

The school only started playing rugby after the Tokyo triumph but progress has been swift with the boys competing with schools where rugby is far more established.

And they are not alone; another three schools nearby have taken up rugby and train at the dusty Jabulani field.

Females in Soweto are also starting to make their mark in rugby with four teams around Jabulani.

With Kolisi still leading the team and with players like Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe in the ranks, the Springboks can take their support to a new level among the young Black population with another good performance in France.

South Africa, who have lost influential fly-half Handre Pollard and centre Lukhanyo Am to injury, begin the defense of their crown against Scotland in Marseille on September 10 and follow that with pool matches against Romania, Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland, and Tonga.

If they reach the quarter-finals they are likely to face a tough tie against either hosts France or old rivals New Zealand.

++ Ahead of the Rugby World Cup in France, Agence France-Presse asked 20 aspiring photographers from each country qualified for the competition to show one aspect of the rugby union culture in their homeland, with the help of Canon cameras who are sponsoring the tournament. From Namibia to Fiji via Georgia and Scotland this photo essay gives us a glimpse of the core values of rugby on five continents.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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