Programme Director, Minister Zizi Kodwa,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
President of the South African Rugby Union, Mr Mark Alexander,
Representatives of SARU,
Head Coach of the Springboks, Mr Jacques Nienaber
Director of Rugby at SA Rugby, Mr Rassie Erasmus,
Coaching and support staff of the Springboks,
Captain Siya Kolisi,
Fellow South Africans,
Amabokoboko, Bokke, the reigning, victorious, undefeated Rugby World Cup champions, our national heroes, the Springboks.
At the Stade de France on Saturday night, you strode off the pitch of victory and passed into legend.
Never in the history of the Rugby World Cup has any team lifted the trophy on four occasions. Until now.
In doing so you have lifted the spirits of an entire nation and filled us with pride.
You have united the South African people.
The words Amabokobo, Go Bokke are being shouted from the rooftops by black and white, young and old, urban and rural dwellers, in all our national languages.
Over the past eight weeks this country has been a sea of green and gold.
People who haven’t even followed rugby before or been interested in the game are now talking with confidence about scrums, rucks, drop kicks and tries.
Most of you are already household names: Siya, Cheslin, Faf, Handré, RG, Duane. We have some new ones now: Makazole, Ox and our very own Elizabedi!
The performance of the Springboks in this year’s Rugby World Cup has captured people’s imagination and energised them in a way not seen in a long time.
It has reminded us that even amidst our many challenges, there is always room for optimism and hope.
I have said before that we do not make light of the challenges our country faces. We certainly do not imagine that a sporting victory can or will wish them away.
And yet I want to say that the event of last Saturday, this week, today and the next, is about celebrating the glory of the Springboks. Glory that did not come easy and glory that is richly deserved.
For everything there is a time. This is the time for our national heroes, the Springboks. Let us celebrate them. Let us give them their due.
Your journey to victory in France on Saturday night was as much about our journey towards nationhood as it was about sporting excellence.
It was as much about the power of transformation.
When Francois Pienaar and President Nelson Mandela lifted the Webb Ellis Cup at Ellis Park Stadium on the 24th of June 1995 our democracy was just over one year old. South Africa had just been readmitted to world rugby three years earlier. There was only one black player on the team, the legendary Chester Williams.
It was a monumental, historic and deeply symbolic occasion.
This win is also monumental.
The Springbok’s four championships have all taken place in the years since we became a democracy.
As Siya has said in the interviews, many of the players on this team have had to overcome significant obstacles to get here. You said, Siya, that as a young black child growing up in Zwide you never dreamed you would become a professional rugby player or end up captaining the national team.
You, Amabokoboko, are testament to the power of a dream.
Every young boy and girl in this country today – whether they are black, white, Indian or coloured – now knows they don’t have to be content with dreaming of becoming like you. They know they can be you.
It has been a long journey to get here.
I want to acknowledge the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, the South African Rugby Union, SA Rugby, sponsors and partners, and all the stakeholders in the rugby fraternity who are working to promote excellence in the sport.
Your support for the Springboks and for the various provincial associations and leagues will continue to go a long way as we prepare the next generation of exceptional sportsmen and women.
A nation of free and equal people. That is the vision we laid out in 1994, and one that we will continue to strive towards realising.
The Springboks are a potent symbol of just how far we have come as a people. That is why you have been so warmly embraced by South Africans of all races as their own.
We salute you. We congratulate you. Siyabonga ngokusihlanganisa futhi. Dankie dat julle ons weer bymekaar Gerin het.
I thank you.