Everybody loves a winner, and this is currently nowhere more true than in South Africa where everyone (judging from social media videos) from townships to inner city neighbourhoods to flashy suburbs was caught up in the joy and jubilation of the Springboks defending their Rugby World Cup crown against the old foe, New Zealand. It is a testament to Rassie Erasmus, Siya Kolisi, and the coaching team that not only are the Springboks just straight-up winners, but they are also universally admired across the world for how they carry and conduct themselves. They are a credit to this Republic.

So, it is with all of this in mind and the Proteas’ semi-final exit from the Cricket World Cup that we must examine Cricket SA’s priorities. As noted by Ryan Vrede in SA Cricket Mag  earlier this month, the Proteas will only have room for four white players in the team by 2030, if CSA strictly applies its transformation targets. This is according to a CSA document released in April 2022, as confirmed by CSA to Rapport. The document then goes on to detail specific racial quotas which are to incrementally increase towards 2030.

You would think, with the next World Cup effectively being on home soil, that the priority would be how the Proteas will win the World Cup, especially with the team being dogged by accusations of being perennial chokers.


It is instructive to note that the Springbok team that won the World Cup final only had two black African players (Bongi Mbonambi and Kolisi) and three Coloured players (Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, and Cheslin Kolbe) in the starting 15. Ten of the players were white.  

Judging from social media and even traditional media, no one cared because they won. I think the other thing the Springboks get right is that all the players in that team are allowed to be themselves and express themselves. There was a video of Marvin Orie, Manie Libbok, Lukhanyo Am, and Mzwandile Stick dancing to amapiano (a type of house music) post the win. Kolisi’s own singing of gwijo before the match communicates a team where all the players are free to be themselves while buying-in to an ethos of brotherhood and sacrifice for a greater goal. This was something absent from pre-Erasmus and Kolisi Springbok teams, and here they do not get enough credit for this culture and for making the main thing the main thing, which is going out there and winning.

It is why in a racially saturated society like South Africa, even the white Springboks are loved by the entire public. Handré Pollard has been named “the national breadwinner”, (a term of affection for his points-scoring under pressure: i.e. his ability to deliver ‘bread’ for the nation). Faf de Klerk is uh…. Beloved? by women across the spectrum, if popular social media channels are anything to go by.

Even the selection of Pollard over Libbok, which in pre-Erasmus and Kolisi Springbok teams would have elicited long conversations and maybe even disgruntlement about race, there was none of that this time, because it is understood by everyone that the Springboks are about winning and everyone loves a winner.

No reason

There is no reason why cricket cannot emulate rugby in this country, as both sports are developmentally underpinned by our world-class private and former model C schools. That is perhaps what is most infuriating about our cricket team, Bafana Bafana. Despite their abject mediocrity post-2000 (we were in the top 20 of the FIFA rankings and the African champions in the 1990s), there is no development system that underpins football in this country. In fact most of the money meant for that has been swallowed up by corruption at the South African Football Association (which is unsurprisingly led by an ANC cadre, Danny Jordaan).

All this is to say we should have at least two team sports where we have been world champions in this country. Cricket SA must make the main thing, the main thing, which is winning, while learning from the Springboks about building a culture that connects with the entire nation.

Definitely proven

The Springboks definitively prove that South Africans across racial and class lines don’t care about demographic representation, as long as the team is winning and has a culture and a way about them that connects with the country as a whole.

France’s unrepresentative 2018 Football World Cup team showed that demographic representation is not an issue, as do countless American Basketball teams that win Olympic gold medals.

In many ways, the Springboks’ success and emotional connection to this country are not only a lesson to CSA, but also to all of us about what building a winning nation that focuses on the main thing could mean for all of us. If South Africa was about job-intensive economic growth that grew the middle class and raised standards of living for everyone, everyone would become more prosperous. A country where everyone can express themselves freely and culturally while buying into a larger vision of prosperity for all would be a country worth living in.

It’s a dream worth having.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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Image: GCIS, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/governmentza/49011775712


Sindile Vabaza is an avid writer and an aspiring economist.